Delineation of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-binding sites on hemoglobin: from in silico predictions to biophysical characterization

J Biol Chem. 2011 Oct 28;286(43):37793-803. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.245472. Epub 2011 Sep 6.


Hemoglobin (Hb) functions as a frontline defense molecule during infection by hemolytic microbes. Binding to LPS induces structural changes in cell-free Hb, which activates the redox activity of the protein for the generation of microbicidal free radicals. Although the interaction between Hb and LPS has implications for innate immune defense, the precise LPS-interaction sites on Hb remain unknown. Using surface plasmon resonance, we found that both the Hb α and β subunits possess high affinity LPS-binding sites, with K(D) in the nanomolar range. In silico analysis of Hb including phospho-group binding site prediction, structure-based sequence comparison, and docking to model the protein-ligand interactions showed that Hb possesses evolutionarily conserved surface cationic patches that could function as potential LPS-binding sites. Synthetic Hb peptides harboring predicted LPS-binding sites served to validate the computational predictions. Surface plasmon resonance analysis differentiated LPS-binding peptides from non-binders. Binding of the peptides to lipid A was further substantiated by a fluorescent probe displacement assay. The LPS-binding peptides effectively neutralized the endotoxicity of LPS in vitro. Additionally, peptide B59 spanning residues 59-95 of Hbβ attached to the surface of Gram-negative bacteria as shown by flow cytometry and visualized by immunogold-labeled scanning electron microscopy. Site-directed mutagenesis of the Hb subunits further confirmed the function of the predicted residues in binding to LPS. In summary, the integration of computational predictions and biophysical characterization has enabled delineation of multiple LPS-binding hot spots on the Hb molecule.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Hemoglobins / chemistry*
  • Hemoglobins / immunology
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipopolysaccharides / chemistry*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Protein Binding


  • Hemoglobins
  • Lipopolysaccharides