Chlorophyll is a pigment found in plants which is responsible for their green colour, whereas Haemoglobin is a protein found in the RBCs in the blood of animals that help in oxygen transportation. It is interesting to know that these two pigment molecules are related to each other.

 

How are chlorophyll and haemoglobin similar to each other?

Well, to answer this question, let us take a look at their structures. They both have a porphyrin ring structure. The porphyrin ring in both chlorophyll and haemoglobin is made up of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen atoms. The porphyrin ring structure is made up of pyrrole rings with nitrogen arranged around a central magnesium ion in the case of chlorophyll whereas, in haemoglobin, the central ion is iron.

 

What is the function of chlorophyll?

Chlorophyll is a pigment found in plants. They are found in chloroplasts of plant cells. The main function of chlorophyll is to trap the energy of the sun and convert it into food. There are various types of chlorophylls; chlorophyll a, chlorophyll b, chlorophyll c etc. They have slight differences in their structures. The most important one amongst them is chlorophyll a, which is the main photopigment that is responsible for photosynthesis.

 

Are other plant pigments similar to chlorophyll?

There are other plant pigments too, such as carotene and xanthophyll that are responsible for the yellow-orange and purple colours respectively. Their structures are quite different from the chlorophyll molecules. Their function is to absorb light at wavelengths that the chlorophyll molecules are unable to. This helps the plant perform photosynthesis optimally.

 

What is the function of haemoglobin?

Haemoglobin is the protein that is responsible for the oxygen transport from the lungs to the various parts of the body, and transport of carbon dioxide from the various parts of the body back to the lungs. Each Haemoglobin molecule is made up of subunits called alpha and beta subunits. They have four porphyrin rings with an iron atom at the centre. Each iron atom is able to bind to oxygen.

 

Are porphyrin rings present in other structures?

Porphyrin ring structures are present in many other organic or living molecules. Other than haemoglobins, porphyrin ring structures are found in myoglobin, cytochromes etc.

 

Can the porphyrin rings of haemoglobin and chlorophyll be exchanged?

It would be interesting to speculate that the porphyrin rings of haemoglobin and chlorophyll would be exchangeable. Imagine, if conditions such as anaemia, could be cured, just by eating more green plants! A study conducted found that iron supplements taken along with chlorophyll increased the level of haemoglobin in plants. The raw materials for the construction of haemoglobin and chlorophyll are the same. However, it is very important to note that plants and animals are very different from each other, and that experiments that take place outside the body cannot be replicated inside the body; there are various obstacles that take place because the processes inside the body are very complex

It is again interesting to note, that though so similar in structure, chlorophyll is present in plant, which is primary producer, whereas, haemoglobin is present in animals, which are consumers. In the course of evolution, it was plants that arrived on this planet long before animals did, and with them haemoglobin.

 

References

CHLOROPHYLL AND BLOOD REGENERATION. 1936;106(11):925. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.1936.02770110041017

https://www.quirkyscience.com/comparing-hemoglobin-and-chlorophyll/

https://science2be.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/the-amazing-similarity-between-blood-and-chlorophyll/

 

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About Author

Saunri Dhodi Lobo is pursuing M.Sc in Life Sciences with specialization in Neurobiology. Her interests include writing poetry, going for nature walks and swimming. Currently she is involved in research on Alzheimer’s Disease in fruit flies.

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