Haemoglobin (Hb) J-Sardegna [α50(CE8)His → Asp] is a haemoglobin variant characteristic of subjects from the island of Sardinia. Here we report a study of the functional properties of both fetal and adult Hb J-Sardegna. The results indicate that adult Hb J-Sardegna displays an oxygen affinity that is higher than that of adult Hb only in the presence of 2,3-diphosphoglycerate (2,3-DPG). On the contrary, at 20 °C, the oxygen affinity of fetal Hb J-Sardegna is identical to that of normal fetal haemoglobin, both in the presence and in the absence of 2,3-DPG. A significant difference between these two systems (i.e. a higher oxygen affinity of fetal Hb J-Sardegna) shows up very clearly only when temperature is increased to 37 °C. Hence in fetal Hb, the main effect of the amino acid substitution is a decrease in the overall enthalpy change of oxygenation. The results outline the role of the α11 interface in assessing the thermodynamics of oxygen binding. The functional properties of both adult and fetal Hb J-Sardegna have been interpreted at the structural level in light of the results obtained by a computational modelling approach performed in comparison with HbA and Hb Aichi, a variant characterized by a different mutation [α50(CE8)His → Arg] at the same position.

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