The hexokinase (HK) of the human red blood cell (RBC) was separated into two distinct major isozymes by fast protein liquid chromatography using a linear salt gradient on a MonoQ column. The first isozyme (HKI) eluted as a sharp peak at the same position as HKI of human liver. The second isozyme eluted between HKI and HKII of human white blood cells, and it appeared to be unique to the RBC (it was designated HKR). From a gel filtration column, HKR eluted before HKI, suggesting that it was larger than HKI by several kilodaltons. In a mitochondria-enriched fraction from human reticulocytes, no HKR was found; thus, HKR was not a mitochondrial enzyme. Despite these differences in chromatographic behavior, size, and mitochondrial binding, both forms behaved kinetically as HKI. RBC from normal blood contained HKI and HKR at an equal activity, but in reticulocyte-rich RBC, HKR dominated. When RBC of increasing age was separated by buoyant density ultracentrifugation, the total HK activity decayed in a biphasic manner, with half-lives respectively of approximately 15 and approximately 51 days. When isolated by MonoQ column from each age-separated fraction, HKR was the major form in the youngest RBC, and decreased rapidly with cell age, with a t 1/2 of approximately 10 days, representing a negligible activity in the oldest RBC. Instead, HKI was relatively stable through the entire life span of the RBC, with a t 1/2 of approximately 66 days. Thus, HKR appears to be an RBC-specific isozyme that is predominant in the reticulocyte and is then rapidly degraded. During maturation of the RBC, the fast decay of HKR contributes to the early sharp decline of HK activity and the slow decay of HKI to the later gradual decline.

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