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Question Video: Identifying Hemoglobin as the Oxygen-Binding Protein of Red Blood Cells Biology

Red blood cells contain a protein that has the ability to bind to oxygen and gives the cell its red color. What is this protein called?

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Video Transcript

Red blood cells contain a protein that has the ability to bind to oxygen and gives the cell its red color. What is this protein called?

To answer this question, let’s look at red blood cells and their role in the blood in more detail. You probably already know that we breathe in oxygen that can be used in cellular respiration. But how exactly does that oxygen make it from the lungs to the rest of the body? Red blood cells are specialized cells that are adapted to transport oxygen from the lungs to the other cells of the body. And they possess several adaptations that allow them to do this.

Mature red blood cells are unlike most other cells in that they do not contain a nucleus or most other organelles. This is because without these organelles, the cell has more space for hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein which contains iron, and it’s this iron that binds to oxygen molecules. So, oxygen diffuses from the lungs into the red blood cells where it binds with hemoglobin in the cytoplasm to form oxyhemoglobin. The oxygen is then transported to the tissues of the body where it is needed. The iron in hemoglobin is also the reason why red blood cells are red.

So, the name of the protein that binds to oxygen and gives red blood cells their red color is hemoglobin.

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