Milena Sophie Detzel, Benjamin Franz Schmalohr, Francèl Steinbock, Marie-Thérèse Hopp, Anuradha Ramoji, Ajay Abisheck Paul George, Ute Neugebauer, Diana Imhof
February 19, 2021
In hemolytic disorders, erythrocyte lysis results in massive release of hemoglobin and, subsequently, toxic heme. Hemopexin is the major protective factor against heme toxicity in human blood and currently considered for therapeutic use. It has been widely accepted that hemopexin binds heme with extraordinarily high affinity of <1 pM in a 1:1 ratio. However, several lines of evidence point to a higher stoichiometry and lower affinity than determined 50 years ago. Here, we re-analyzed these data. SPR and UV/Vis spectroscopy were used to monitor the interaction of heme with the human protein. The heme-binding sites of hemopexin were characterized using hemopexin-derived peptide models and competitive displacement assays. We obtained a K D value of 0.32 ± 0.04 nM and the ratio for the interaction was determined to be 1:1 at low heme concentrations and at least 2:1 (heme:hemopexin) at high concentrations. We were able to identify two yet unknown potential heme-binding sites on hemopexin. Furthermore, molecular modelling with a newly created homology model of human hemopexin suggested a possible recruiting mechanism by which heme could consecutively bind several histidine residues on its way into the binding pocket. Our findings have direct implications for the potential administration of hemopexin in hemolytic disorders.