The stability properties of the iron(II)-dioxygen bond in myoglobin and hemoglobin are of particular importance, because both proteins are oxidized easily to the ferric met-form, which cannot be oxygenated and is therefore physiologically inactive. In this paper, we have formulated all the possible pathways leading to the oxidation of myoglobin to metmyoglobin with each required rate constant in 0.1 M buffer (pH 7.0) at 25 degrees C, and have set up six rate equations for the elementary processes going on in a simultaneous way. By using the Runge-Kutta method to solve these differential equations, the concentration progress curves were then displayed for all the reactive species involved. In this complex reaction, the primary event was the autoxidation of MbO2 to metMb with generation of the superoxide anion, this anion being converted immediately and almost completely into H2O2 by the spontaneous dismutation. Under air-saturated conditions (PO2 = 150 Torr), the H2O2 produced was decomposed mostly by the metMb resulting from the autoxidation of MbO2. At lower pressures of O2, however, H2O2 can act as the most potent oxidant of the deoxyMb, which increases with decreasing O2 pressures, so that there appeared a well defined maximum rate in the formation of metMb at approximately 5 Torr of oxygen. Such examinations with the aid of a computer provide us, for the first time, with a full picture of the oxidation reaction of myoglobin as a function of oxygen pressures. These results also seem to be of primary importance from a point of view of clinical biochemistry of the oxygen supply, as well as of pathophysiology of ischemia, in red muscles such as cardiac and skeletal muscle tissues.
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