Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 157, Issue 1, pp 1–9 | Cite as

Oxygen transfer properties and dimensions of red blood cells in high-altitude camelids, dromedary camel and goat

  • Kazuhiro Yamaguchi
  • Klaus D. Jürgens
  • Heinz Bartels
  • Johannes Piiper


To estimate the advantage of the small red blood cells (RBC) of high-altitude camelids for O2 transfer, the kinetics of O2 uptake into and release from the RBC obtained from llama, vicuña and alpaca were investigated at 37°C with a stopped-flow technique. O2 transfer conductance of RBC (G) was estimated from the rate of O2 saturation change and the corresponding O2 pressure difference between medium and hemoglobin. For comparison, O2 kinetics for the RBC of a lowaltitude camelid (dromedary camel) and the pygmy goat were determined and previously measured values for human RBC were used. O2 transfer of RBC was found to be strongly influenced by extracellular diffusion, except with O2 release into dithionite solutions of sufficiently high concentration (>30 mM). TheG values measured in these ‘standard’ conditions,Gst (in mmol · min−1 · Torr−1 · (ml RBC)−1) were: high-altitude camelids, 0.58 (averaged for llama, alpaca and vicuña since there were no significant interspecific differences); camel 0.42; goat, 0.42; man, 0.39. The differences can in part be attributed to expected effects of the size and shape of the RBC (volume, surface area, mean thickness), as well as to the intracellular O2 diffusivity which depends on the concentration of cellular hemoglobin. The highGst of RBC of highaltitude camelids may be considered to enhance O2 transfer in lungs and tissues. But the O2 transfer conductance of blood, θ, equal toGst multiplied by hematocrit (in mmol · min−1 · Torr−1 · (ml blood)−1), was only slightly higher as compared to other species: 0.20 (llama, alpaca, vicuña), 0.14 (camel), 0.18 (goat), 0.17 (man).


Oxygen Human Physiology Pressure Difference Oxygen Transfer Expected Effect 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.









red blood cells

\(S_{O_2 } \)

percent saturation of hemoglobin


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bartels H, Hilpert P, Barbey K, Betke K, Riegel K, Lang EM, Metcalfe J (1963) Respiratory functions of blood of the yak, llama, camel, Dybowski deer, and African elephant. Am J Physiol 205:331–336Google Scholar
  2. Bouverot P (1985) Adaptation to altitude-hypoxia in vertebrates. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Chiodi H (1970/71) Comparative study of the blood gas transport in high altitude and sea level camelidae and goats. Respir Physiol 11:84–93Google Scholar
  4. Coin JT, Olson JS (1979) The rate of oxygen uptake by human red blood cells. J Biol Chem 254:1178–1190Google Scholar
  5. Drabkin DL, Austin JH (1935) Spectrophotometric studies. II. Preparations from washed blood cells, nitric oxide hemoglobin and sulfhemoglobin. J Biol Chem 112:51–65Google Scholar
  6. Ericson A, de Verdier CH (1972) A modified method for the determination of 2,3-diphosphoglycerate in erythrocytes. Scand J Clin Lab Invest 29:85–90Google Scholar
  7. Evelyn KA, Malloy HT (1938) Microdetermination of oxyhemoglobin, methemoglobin, and sulfhemoglobin in a single sample of blood. J Biol Chem 126:655–662Google Scholar
  8. Hilpert P, Fleischmann RG, Kempe D, Bartels H (1963) The Bohr effect related to blood and erythrocyte pH. Am J Physiol 205:337–340Google Scholar
  9. Holland RAB, Forster RE (1966) The effect of size and red cells on the kinetics of their oxygen uptake. J Gen Physiol 49:727–742Google Scholar
  10. Holland RAB, Shibata H, Scheid P, Piiper J (1985) Kinetics of O2 uptake and release by red cells in stopped-flow apparatus: effects of unstirred layer. Respir Physiol 59:71–91Google Scholar
  11. Huxley VH, Kutchai H (1981) The effect of the red cell membrane and a diffusion boundary layer on the rate of oxygen uptake by human erythrocytes. J Physiol 316:75–88Google Scholar
  12. Huxley VH, Kutchai H (1983) Effect of diffusion boundary layers on the initial uptake of O2 by the cells. Theory versus experiment. Microvasc Res 26:89–107Google Scholar
  13. Jones DA (1979) The importance of surface area/volume ratio to the rate of oxygen uptake by red cells. J Gen Physiol 74:643–646Google Scholar
  14. Jürgens KD, Bartels H, Bartels R (1981) Blood oxygen transport and organ weights of small bats and small non-flying mammals. Respir Physiol 45:243–260Google Scholar
  15. Kreuzer F (1970) Facilitated diffusion of oxygen and its possible significance: a review. Respir Physiol 9:1–30Google Scholar
  16. Middleman S (1972) Transport phenomena in the cardiovascular system. Chap 2. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Miyamoto Y, Moll W (1972) The diameter of red blood cells when flowing through a rapid reaction apparatus. Respir Physiol 16:259–266Google Scholar
  18. Moll W (1968/69) The influence of hemoglobin diffusion on oxygen uptake and release by red cells. Respir Physiol 6:1–15Google Scholar
  19. Monge C, Whittembury J (1976) High altitude adaptation in the whole animal. In: Bligh J, Cloudsley-Thompson JL, Macdonald AG (eds) Environmental physiology of animals. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 287–308Google Scholar
  20. Reynafarje C (1966) Iron metabolism during and after altitude exposure in man and in adapted animals (camelids). Fed Proc 25:1240–1242Google Scholar
  21. Rice SA (1980) Hydrodynamic and diffusion considerations of rapid-mix experiments with red blood cells. Biophys J 29:65–78Google Scholar
  22. Riegel K, Bartels H, Kleihauer E, Lang EM, Metcalfe J (1966) Comparative studies of the respiratory functions of mammalian blood. I. Gorilla, chimpanzee and orangutan. Respir Physiol 1:138–144Google Scholar
  23. Scatchard G, Batchelder AC, Brown A (1946) Preparation and properties of serum and plasma proteins. VI. Osmotic equilibria in solutions of serum albumin and sodium chloride. J Am Chem Soc 68:2320–2329Google Scholar
  24. Sendroy J, Dillon RT, Van Slyke DD (1934) Studies of gas and electrolyte equilibria in blood. J Biol Chem 105:597–632Google Scholar
  25. Smith JE, Mohandas N, Shohet SB (1979) Variability in erythrocyte deformability among various mammals. Am J Physiol 236:H725-H730Google Scholar
  26. Vandegriff KD, Olson JS (1984) Morphological and physiological factors affecting oxygen uptake and release by red blood cells. J Biol Chem 259:12619–12627Google Scholar
  27. Yamaguchi K, Nguyen-Phu D, Scheid P, Piiper J (1985) Kinetics of O2 uptake and release by human red blood cells studied by a stopped-flow technique. J Appl Physiol 58:1215–1224Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kazuhiro Yamaguchi
    • 3
  • Klaus D. Jürgens
    • 2
  • Heinz Bartels
    • 2
  • Johannes Piiper
    • 1
  1. 1.Abteilung PhysiologieMax-Planck-Institut für experimentelle MedizinGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Zentrum PhysiologieMedizinische Hochschule HannoverHannoverGermany
  3. 3.Department of Medicine, School of MedicineKeio UniversityTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations