Hemoglobin and Cyanide

William R. Penrose wpenrose at interaccess.com
Sat Dec 2 20:58:20 EST 1995


In article <Bob_Hoesch.447.000FF06D at fws.gov> Bob_Hoesch at fws.gov (Bob Hoesch) writes:

>If one is using hemoglobin as a marker for analyzing population   
>genetics, a standard procedure is to treat the blood sample with low 
>concentrations of cyanide prior to IEF (isoelectric focusing).  This 
>results in the elimination of "spurious" bands, and apparently makes    
>the resulting banding patterns amenable to genetic analysis. I've heard    
>this procedure described as "reduction of methemoglobin" (reduction of     
>the oxidized iron back to the reduced state), but this doesn't make sense 
>to me in terms of the chemistry. Can someone explain what is happening in 
>this cyanide-induced reduction in the number of hemoglobin bands?  How could 
>cyanide reduce Fe3+ to Fe2+?  

It doesn't.  Methemoglobin forms a tight complex with CN, and ordinary Hb 
doesn't.  Presumably this affects the absorption bands enough to eliminate 
them as interference.  One of the treatments for HCN poisoning is to inhale an 
organic nitrite, which oxidizes Hb to mHb.  The CN is then tied up by the mHb 
instead of trashing the cytochroma oxidase, which is its toxic target.

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