Extension Arm Facilitated PEGylation of Hemoglobin: Correlation of the Properties with the Extent of PEGylation

Human hemoglobin (Hb) conjugated with six copies of PEG-5K is nonhypertensive. The hexaPEGylated Hb exhibits molecular size homogeneity in spite of the chemical heterogeneity with respect to the sites of conjugation. In the present study, Hb conjugated with an average of 4, 6, 8 and 10 copies of PEG-5K chains have been generated using the extension arm facilitated PEGylation protocol. Except for the tetraPEGylated Hb, all the other products exhibit molecular size homogeneity. The molecular, colligative and functional properties of PEG-Hb conjugates have been correlated with the extent of PEGylation. The results imply that six copies of PEG-5K chains are accommodated on Hb without significant crowding on the molecular surface. As more copies of PEG-5K chains are conjugated to form octa and deca PEGylated Hb, the PEG-chains conjugated appear to undergo transition from a mushroom (compact) to a brush-like conformation (extended conformation) with a concomitant decrease in the propensity of the molecule to transition from oxy to deoxy conformation in the presence of allosteric effectors. The viscosity and the colloidal osmotic pressure of Hb increase with the number of the PEG-chains conjugated in an exponential fashion. The composition of the PEGylated Hb generated appears to be controlled by (i) high reactivity of thiol groups of the extension arms on Hb with maleimide-PEG, (ii) increase in the viscosity of the reaction mixture as the level of PEGylation increases and (iii) increased resistance induced by the PEG-shell of PEGylated Hb to accommodate more PEG-chains as the level of PEGylation increases. Potential implications of extent of PEGylation on the oxygen delivery by PEG-Hb conjugate in vivo have been discussed.

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