The ease with which haemoglobin releases oxygen to the tissues is controlled by erythrocytic 2,3-diphosphoglycerate (2,3-DPG) such that an increase in the concentration of 2,3-DPG decreases oxygen affinity and vice versa. This review article describes the synthesis and breakdown of 2,3-DPG in the Embden-Meyerof pathway in red cells and briefly explains the molecular basis for its effect on oxygen affinity. Interaction of the effects of pH, Pco2, temperature and 2,3-DPG on the oxyhaemoglobin dissociation curve are discussed. The role of 2,3-DPG in the intraerythrocytic adaptation to various types of hypoxaemia is described. The increased oxygen affinity of blood stored in acid-citrate-dextrose (ACD) solution has been shown to be due to the decrease in the concentration of 2,3-DPG which occurs during storage. Methods of maintaining the concentration of 2,3-DPG in stored blood are described. The clinical implication of transfusion of elderly people, anaemic or pregnant patients with ACD stored blood to anaesthetically and surgically acceptable haemoglobin concentrations are discussed. Hypophosphataemia in association with parenteral feeding reduces 2,3-DPG concentration and so increases oxygen affinity. Since post-operative use of intravenous fluids such as dextrose or dextrose/saline also lead to hypophosphataemia, the addition of inorganic phosphorus to routine post-operative intravenous fluid may be advisable. Disorders of acid-base balance effect oxygen affinity not only by the direct effect of pH on the oxyhaemoglobin dissociation curve but by its control of 2,3-DPG metabolism. Management of acid-base disorders and pre-operative aklalinization of patients with sickle cell disease whould take account of this. It is known that anaesthesia alters the position of the oxyhaemoglobin dissociation curve, but it is thought that this is independent of any effects which anaesthetic agents may have on 2,3-DPG concentration. In vitro manipulation of 2,3-DPG concentration with steroids has already been carried out. Elucidation of the role of 2,3-DPG in the control of oxygen affinity may ultimately lead to iatrogenic manipulation of oxygen affinity in vivo.
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