Solution structure of poly(ethylene) glycol-conjugated hemoglobin revealed by small-angle X-ray scattering: implications for a new oxygen therapeutic

Biophys J. 2008 Jan 1;94(1):173-81. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.107.114314. Epub 2007 Sep 7.


Developing protein therapeutics has posed challenges due to short circulating times and toxicities. Recent advances using poly(ethylene) glycol (PEG) conjugation have improved their performance. A PEG-conjugated hemoglobin (Hb), Hemospan, is in clinical trials as an oxygen therapeutic. Solutions of PEG-hemoglobin with two (P5K2) or six to seven strands of 5-kD PEG (P5K6) were studied by small-angle x-ray scattering. PEGylation elongates the dimensions (Hb < P5K2 < P5K6) and leaves the tertiary hemoglobin structure unchanged but compacts its quaternary structure. The major part of the PEG chains visualized by ab initio reconstruction protrudes away from hemoglobin, whereas the rest interacts with the protein. PEGylation introduces intermolecular repulsion, increasing with conjugated PEG amount. These results demonstrate how PEG surface shielding and intermolecular repulsion may prolong intravascular retention and lack of reactivity of PEG-Hb, possibly by inhibiting binding to the macrophage CD163 hemoglobin-scavenger receptor. The proposed methodology for assessment of low-resolution structures and interactions is a powerful means for rational design of PEGylated therapeutic agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Drug Carriers / chemistry*
  • Hemoglobins / chemistry*
  • Hemoglobins / ultrastructure*
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Oxygen / chemistry*
  • Oxygen / therapeutic use*
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry*
  • X-Ray Diffraction


  • Drug Carriers
  • Hemoglobins
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Oxygen