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29.3B: Hemocyanin

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  • Hemocyanin is used for oxygen transport in many arthropods (spiders, crabs, lobsters, and centipedes) and in mollusks (shellfish, octopi, and squid); it is responsible for the bluish-green color of their blood. The protein is a polymer of subunits that each contain two copper atoms (rather than iron), with an aggregate molecular mass of greater than 1,000,000 amu. Deoxyhemocyanin contains two Cu+ ions per subunit and is colorless, whereas oxyhemocyanin contains two Cu2+ ions and is bright blue. As with hemerythrin, the binding and release of O2 correspond to a two-electron reaction:

    \[\ce{2Cu^{+} + O2 <=> Cu^{2+}–O2^{2−}–Cu^{2+}} \label{23.18}\]

    Although hemocyanin and hemerythrin perform the same basic function as hemoglobin, these proteins are not interchangeable. In fact, hemocyanin is so foreign to humans that it is one of the major factors responsible for the common allergies to shellfish.

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