This study was performed to investigate oxygen transport properties in whole blood (WB) of malaria-infected rats as well as in infected erythrocytes (IE) and noninfected erythrocytes (NIE) separated by density centrifugation. One week after inoculation with Plasmodium berghei, mean parasitemia was 26.5% and high correlations were found between parasitemia and hemoglobin concentration ([Hb]; r = -.902), mean cellular Hb concentration (MCHC; r = -.712), MetHb (r = .923), and base excess (r = -.922). Compared with control animals (C), the oxygen affinity was lower in WB under standard (pH 7.40) and simulated “in vivo” (pH 7.00) conditions (difference in P50, 5.7 and 5.1 mm Hg, respectively; 2P < .01, 2P < .05). In IE Hb and 2,3-biphosphoglycerate (2,3-BPG) concentrations were decreased (MCHC: IE 14.6 +/- 1.0, NIE 33.1 +/- 1.7 g/100 mL; [2,3-BPG]: IE 2.0 +/- 0.6, NIE 7.6 +/- 1.8 mmol/L), whereas [MetHb] and [ATP] were increased ([MetHb]: IE 19.0 +/- 3.7, NIE 0.7% +/- 0.8%; [ATP]: IE 33.5 +/- 2.4, NIE 6.2 +/- 1.0 mumol/g Hb). At pH 7.40, half-saturation oxygen tension (P50) was reduced in IE (29.6 +/- 2.6, NIE 39.2 +/- 5.4 mm Hg, 2P < .001), which correlates with lower [2,3-BPG], increased MetHb content, and higher intrinsic Hb- O2 affinity. However, at pH 7.00, the oxygen affinity was lower in IE when compared with NIE, which was most likely due to high [ATP] in IE. The resulting Bohr coefficients (BC) calculated for CO2 and lactic acid were extremely high in IE and low in NIE (at 50% O2-saturation BCCO2: IE -1.04 +/- 0.06, NIE -0.26 +/- 0.10, 2P < .001; BCLac: IE -0.82 +/- 0.16, NIE -0.47 +/- 0.07, 2P < .001), which was caused by different [2,3-BPG] and [ATP] as well as probably by structural changes of the Hb molecule. The O2 capacity was 14.1 mL per 100 mL erythrocytes in IE compared with 44.4 mL/100 mL in NIE. On the basis of the calculated arterio-venous O2 difference under “in vivo” conditions, the infected red blood cell fraction transports 30% of the O2 amount delivered to the tissues by the noninfected cells (IE 8.0, NIE 26.9 mL/100 mL red blood cells). We conclude that the O2 transport in malaria infected blood is not only affected by the degree of anemia but also by the percentage of infected erythrocytes.

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