Pronounced in vivo hemoglobin polymerization in red blood cells of Gulf toadfish: a general role for hemoglobin aggregation in vertebrate hemoparasite defense?

American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Pia KoldkjaerMichael Berenbrink


Two human hemoglobin (Hb) variants, Hb C and Hb S, are known to protect against Plasmodium falciparum malaria and have evolved repeatedly in malaria endemic areas. Both aggregate to insoluble crystals (Hb C) or polymers (Hb S) under certain physiological conditions, impair parasite growth, and may facilitate retention of infected red blood cells (RBCs) in the spleen. Given the profound effects of parasites on host evolution in general, and that RBC Hb concentration is often close to its solubility limit throughout vertebrates, similar mechanisms may operate in nonhuman vertebrates. Here we show exercise-induced, profound in vivo Hb polymerization in RBCs of the Gulf toadfish. Hb aggregation was closely associated with the extent of plasma acidosis, fully reversible, and without any signs of hemolysis or anemia. Our literature analysis suggests that aggregation prone Hbs may be relatively old, evolved multiple times in nonhuman vertebrates, show enhanced aggregation during hemoparasite infections, and can be uncovered in vivo by splenectomy. We discuss the working hypothesis that widespread Hb aggregation within several vertebrate groups may be the result of ongoing or past selection pressure against RBC parasites. Further compa...Continue Reading


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Jul 13, 2018·The Journal of Experimental Biology·Guido van den ThillartFrans Witte
Sep 8, 2017·American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology·Asbjørn G PetersenAngela Fago
Dec 20, 2017·Nature Ecology & Evolution·Alexander EsinTobias Warnecke

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