The blood hemoglobin of the sea lamprey presents a curious mixture of primitive and highly specialized properties. Like muscle hemoglobin, it has a molecular weight of about 17,000, and apparently contains a single heme. Its isoelectric point is like that of a typical invertebrate hemoglobin. Its amino acid composition is partly characteristic of invertebrate) partly of vertebrate hemoglobins (Pedersen; Roche and Fontaine).
In the present experiments, the oxygen equilibrium curve of this pigment was measured at several pH's. As expected, it is a rectangular hyperbola, the first such function to be observed in a vertebrate blood hemoglobin.
Other hemoglobins known to possess this type of oxygen dissociation curve—those of vertebrate muscle, the worm Nippostrongylus, and the bot-fly larva—appear to serve primarily the function of oxygen storage rather than transport. Lamprey hemoglobin on the contrary is an efficient oxygen-transporting agent. It achieves this status by having, unlike muscle hemoglobin, a relatively low oxygen affinity, and a very large Bohr effect. In these properties it rivals the most effective vertebrate blood hemoglobins.