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Surprising differences in the respiratory protein of insects: A spectroscopic study of haemoglobin from the European honeybee and the malaria mosquito

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Kevin Nys, Bert Cuypers, Herald Berghmans, Dietmar Hammerschmid, Luc Moens, Sylvia Dewilde, Sabine Van Doorslaer

Original languageEnglish
Article number140413
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Proteins and Proteomics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

King's Authors


Only recently it was discovered that haemoglobin (Hb) belongs to the standard gene repertoire of insects, although their tracheal system is used for respiration. A classical oxygen-carrying function of Hb is only obvious for hexapods living in hypoxic environments. In other insect species, including the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, the physiological role of Hb is yet unclear. Here, we study recombinant haemoglobin from the European honeybee Apis mellifera (Ame) and the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae (Aga). Spectroscopic evidence shows that both proteins can be classified as hexacoordinate Hbs with a strong affinity for the distal histidine. AgaHb1 is proposed to play a role in oxygen transport or sensing based on its multimeric state, slow autoxidation, and small but significant amount of five-coordinated haem in the deoxy ferrous form. AmeHb appears to behave more like vertebrate neuroglobin with a complex function given its diversified distribution in the genome.

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