Hemoglobin (also spelled haemoglobin and abbreviated Hb or Hgb), is the iron-containing oxygen-transport metalloprotein in the red blood cells of all vertebrates (with the exception of the fish family Channichthyidae) as well as the tissues of some invertebrates. Hemoglobin in the blood carries oxygen from the respiratory organs (lungs or gills) to the rest of the body (i.e. the tissues). There it releases the oxygen to permitaerobic respiration to provide energy to power the functions of the organism in the process called metabolism.
In mammals, the protein makes up about 96% of the red blood cells’ dry content (by weight), and around 35% of the total content (including water). Hemoglobin has an oxygen-binding capacity of 1.34 mL O2 per gram, which increases the total blood oxygen capacity seventy-fold compared to dissolved oxygen in blood. The mammalian hemoglobin molecule can bind (carry) up to four oxygen molecules.
Hemoglobin is involved in the transport of other gases: It carries some of the body’s respiratory carbon dioxide (about 10% of the total) as carbaminohemoglobin, in which CO2 is bound to the globin protein. The molecule also carries the important regulatory molecule nitric oxide bound to a globin protein thiol group, releasing it at the same time as oxygen.
Hemoglobin is also found outside red blood cells and their progenitor lines. Other cells that contain hemoglobin include the A9 dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra, macrophages, alveolar cells, and mesangial cells in the kidney. In these tissues, hemoglobin has a non-oxygen-carrying function as an antioxidant and a regulator of iron metabolism.
Hemoglobin and hemoglobin-like molecules are also found in many invertebrates, fungi, and plants. In these organisms, hemoglobins may carry oxygen, or they may act to transport and regulate other things such as carbon dioxide, nitric oxide, hydrogen sulfide and sulfide. A variant of the molecule, called leghemoglobin, is used to scavenge oxygen away from anaerobic systems, such as the nitrogen-fixing nodules of leguminous plants, before the oxygen can poison the system.