Effect of altitude on oxygen binding by hemoglobin and on organic phosphate levels

J Clin Invest. 1968 Dec;47(12):2652-6. doi: 10.1172/JCI105948.


The relationship between oxygen dissociation and 2,3-diphosphoglycerate (2,3-DPG) in the red cell has been studied in subjects moving from low to high altitude and vice versa. Within 24 hr following the change in altitude there was a change in hemoglobin affinity for oxygen; this modification therefore represents an important rapid adaptive mechanism to anoxia. A parallel change occurred in the organic phosphate content of the red cell. While this study does not provide direct evidence of a cause-effect relationship, the data strongly suggest that with anoxia, the observed rise in organic phosphate content of the red cell is responsible for increased availability of oxygen to tissues.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / blood
  • Altitude*
  • Erythrocyte Count
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Glycerophosphates / blood
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Hypoxia / blood
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Phosphates / blood*
  • Phosphorus / blood


  • Glycerophosphates
  • Hemoglobins
  • Phosphates
  • Phosphorus
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Oxygen