oxygen dissociation curve

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

oxygen dissociation curve The S-shaped curve produced when the percentage saturation of haemoglobin with oxygen (i.e. the percentage of binding sites of haemoglobin that are occupied by oxygen molecules) is plotted against the partial pressure of oxygen (pO2), which is a measure of the oxygen concentration in the surrounding medium. The steep rise of the curve indicates the high affinity of haemoglobin for oxygen: a small increase in pO2 results in a relatively sharp increase in the percentage saturation of haemoglobin with oxygen. Therefore in the lungs, where the pO2 is high, the blood is rapidly saturated with oxygen. Conversely, a small drop in pO2 results in a large drop in percentage saturation of haemoglobin. Thus in tissues that utilize oxygen at a high rate, where the pO2 is low, oxygen readily dissociates from haemoglobin and is released for use by the tissues. See also Bohr effect.