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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the principles of oxygen transport
  • Describe the structure of hemoglobin
  • Compare and contrast fetal and adult hemoglobin
  • Describe the principles of carbon dioxide transport

The other major activity in the lungs is the process of respiration, the process of gas exchange. The function of respiration is to provide oxygen for use by body cells during cellular respiration and to eliminate carbon dioxide, a waste product of cellular respiration, from the body. In order for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide to occur, both gases must be transported between the external and internal respiration sites. Although carbon dioxide is more soluble than oxygen in blood, both gases require a specialized transport system for the majority of the gas molecules to be moved between the lungs and other tissues.

Oxygen transport in the blood

Even though oxygen is transported via the blood, you may recall that oxygen is not very soluble in liquids. A small amount of oxygen does dissolve in the blood and is transported in the bloodstream, but it is only about 1.5% of the total amount. The majority of oxygen molecules are carried from the lungs to the body’s tissues by a specialized transport system, which relies on the erythrocyte—the red blood cell. Erythrocytes contain a metalloprotein, hemoglobin, which serves to bind oxygen molecules to the erythrocyte ( [link] ). Heme is the portion of hemoglobin that contains iron, and it is heme that binds oxygen. One hemoglobin molecule contains iron-containing Heme molecules, and because of this, each hemoglobin molecule is capable of carrying up to four molecules of oxygen. As oxygen diffuses across the respiratory membrane from the alveolus to the capillary, it also diffuses into the red blood cell and is bound by hemoglobin. The following reversible chemical reaction describes the production of the final product, oxyhemoglobin    (Hb–O 2 ), which is formed when oxygen binds to hemoglobin. Oxyhemoglobin is a bright red-colored molecule that contributes to the bright red color of oxygenated blood.

Hb + O 2 Hb   O 2 MathType@MTEF@5@5@+=feaagyart1ev2aaatCvAUfeBSjuyZL2yd9gzLbvyNv2CaerbuLwBLnhiov2DGi1BTfMBaeXatLxBI9gBaerbd9wDYLwzYbItLDharqqtubsr4rNCHbGeaGqiVu0Je9sqqrpepC0xbbL8F4rqqrFfpeea0xe9Lq=Jc9vqaqpepm0xbba9pwe9Q8fs0=yqaqpepae9pg0FirpepeKkFr0xfr=xfr=xb9adbaqaaeGaciGaaiaabeqaamaabaabaaGcbaGaaeisaiaabkgacaqGGaGaae4kaiaabccacaqGpbWaaSbaaSqaaiaabkdaaeqaaOGaeyiLHSQaaeisaiaabkgacaqGGaGaeyOeI0Iaaeiiaiaab+eadaWgaaWcbaGaaeOmaaqabaaaaa@42D6@

In this formula, Hb represents reduced hemoglobin, that is, hemoglobin that does not have oxygen bound to it. There are multiple factors involved in how readily heme binds to and dissociates from oxygen, which will be discussed in the subsequent sections.

Erythrocyte and hemoglobin

This diagram shows a red blood cell and the structure of a hemoglobin molecule.
Hemoglobin consists of four subunits, each of which contains one molecule of iron.

Function of hemoglobin

Hemoglobin is composed of subunits, a protein structure that is referred to as a quaternary structure. Each of the four subunits that make up hemoglobin is arranged in a ring-like fashion, with an iron atom covalently bound to the heme in the center of each subunit. Binding of the first oxygen molecule causes a conformational change in hemoglobin that allows the second molecule of oxygen to bind more readily. As each molecule of oxygen is bound, it further facilitates the binding of the next molecule, until all four heme sites are occupied by oxygen. The opposite occurs as well: After the first oxygen molecule dissociates and is “dropped off” at the tissues, the next oxygen molecule dissociates more readily. When all four heme sites are occupied, the hemoglobin is said to be saturated. When one to three heme sites are occupied, the hemoglobin is said to be partially saturated. Therefore, when considering the blood as a whole, the percent of the available heme units that are bound to oxygen at a given time is called hemoglobin saturation. Hemoglobin saturation of 100 percent means that every heme unit in all of the erythrocytes of the body is bound to oxygen. In a healthy individual with normal hemoglobin levels, hemoglobin saturation generally ranges from 95 percent to 99 percent.

Questions & Answers

How does blood circulate in the upper limbs
Mary Reply
describe the muscles found in the heart
Atotwe Reply
thank you very much
asalamu aleikum
waalekum salam
types of connective tissues?
what is a muscular system and details about it
Jackson Reply
what is the type of homones responseble for blenking of eyes
Moses Reply
what are the functions of cell?
Keyirangzile Reply
how does the femur act as a lever?
Mutoni Reply
what is stumac
Abdussalam Reply
What is phagocytosis
Mohamed Reply
Phagocytosis, process by which certain living cells called phagocyte
It is the process that is carried out by the immune system of the body, that certain specialized immune cells (macrophages, Nks, dendritic cells, etc) that engulf and neutralize the foreign substances that invades the body.
So that they can be predicate out of the body.
phagocytosis is the process by which living cell or yh plasma membrane engulf large molecules into it internal environment ... it also known as food feeding
all that you are say what does it mean?
simply is the way the immune system fights foreign bodies by engulfing them..
by the help of the immune cells...
The process by which a cell engulfs particles such as bacteria, other microorganisms, debris of dead cell.e.g: neutrophils and monocytes (types of white blood cells)
what are the six types of connective tissues
Athieno Reply
loose and dense , cartilage and bone , blood and lymph
describe the structure of the liver
Atwebembeire Reply
what is specific name for spinal cord
Stanley Reply
what is the best description for skeletal muscular
what is the best description for skeletal muscular
costs of bones of skeleton, their joint s and voluntary
what are examples of long bones
example of long bones will be the femur tibia and humerus and even radius
so basically long bones are mostly in you hands and feets
skeletal muscular are voluntary and are attached to the bone by tendon which help maintain the posture and position of the body and it also protects internal organs in the abdominal region
The specific name for spinal cord is coccygeal segment
what are the hormones responseble for blenking of eyes.
Smallest unit of life
Kimberly Reply
The cell is the smallest structural and functional unit of living organisms, which can exist on its own. Therefore, it is sometimes called the building block of life. Some organisms, such as bacteria or yeast, are unicellular—consisting only of a single cell—while others, for instance, mammalians, a
cells are the building blocks of life
Describe the complications of fracture
Zaifa Reply
functions of connective tissue
renah Reply
binding and structural support protection Insulation Transport of materials
Is there any artery that carries oxygenated blood? what's the name?
Deoxygenated blood enters the right atrium from the vena cava. Blood moves into right ventricle. Blood is pumped into the pulmonary artery. The pulmonary artery carries deoxygenated blood to the lungs. The blood becomes oxygenated in the lungs. Oxygenated blood leaves the lung via the pulmonary
all arteries carry oxygenated blood except pulmonary artery
protection,,,,,transport,,,,,,connection,,,,,,,support,,,,,these are functions of connective tissue
and insulation
what is a local potential
Nandi Reply
potential of neurons
response of neurons against sodium ion Chanel
The resting membrane potential of a neuron is about -70 mV (mV=millivolt) - this means that the inside of the neuron is 70 mV less than the outside. At rest, there are relatively more sodium ions outside the neuron and more potassium ions inside that neuron.

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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