Novel manufacturing method for producing apohemoglobin and its biophysical properties

March 24, 2020


Novel manufacturing method for producing apohemoglobin and its biophysical properties


Ivan S. Pires, Donald A. Belcher, Richard Hickey, Colbert Miller, Abraham K. Badu‐Tawiah, Jin Hyen Baek, Paul W. Buehler, Andre F. Palmer




Biotechnology and Bioengineering


Apohemoglobin (apoHb) is a dimeric globular protein with two vacant heme‐binding pockets that can bind heme or other hydrophobic ligands. Purification of apoHb is based on partial hemoglobin (Hb) unfolding to facilitate heme extraction into an organic solvent. However, current production methods are time consuming, difficult to scale up, and use highly flammable and toxic solvents. In this study, a novel and scalable apoHb production method was developed using an acidified ethanol solution to extract the hydrophobic heme ligand into solution and tangential flow filtration to separate heme from the resultant apoprotein. Total protein and active protein yields were >95% and ~75%, respectively, with <1% residual heme in apoHb preparations and >99% purity from sodium dodecyl sulfate–polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis. Virtually no loss of apoHb activity was detected at 4°C, −80°C, and in lyophilized form during long term storage. Structurally, size exclusion chromatography (SEC) and circular dichroism indicated that apoHb was dimeric with a ~25% reduction of helical content compared to Hb. Furthermore, mass spectroscopy and reverse‐phase chromatography indicated that the mass of the α and β subunits were virtually identical to the theoretical mass of these subunits in Hb and had no detectable oxidative modifications upon heme removal from Hb. SEC confirmed that apoHb bound to haptoglobin at a similar ratio to that of native Hb. Finally, reconstituted Hb (rHb) was processed via a hemichrome removal method to isolate functional rHb for biophysical characterization in which the O2 equilibrium curve, O2 dissociation, and CO association kinetics of rHb were virtually identical to native Hb. Overall, this study describes a novel and improved method to produce apoHb, as well as presents a comprehensive biochemical analysis of apoHb and rHb.




Circular dichroism, Secondary structure, Protein stability, Biochemistry