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The effect of pH and inositol hexaphosphate on the electron spin resonance spectra of the alpha-hemes (g = 6.0) and the beta-hemes (g = 6.7) has been measured in methemoglobin M Milwaukee and compared with that of methemoglobin A (g = 6.0). The beta-hemes are found to be comparatively insensitive to both effectors while the alpha-hemes behave in a manner similar to the heme groups of methemoglobin A. Binding of inositol hexaphosphate enhances the high spin ESR signal of the alpha-hemes in both methemoglobins. Comparison of the optical properties of methemoglobins A and M Milwaukee over the pH range from 5.0 to 8.1 shows that inositol hexaphosphate has a differential effect on the subunit types in these two methemoglobins. At low pH the spectral changes observed upon inositol hexaphosphate binding arise primarily from the beta-hemes, while at neutral and alkaline pH these changes arise from both subunit types. The beta-heme spectral changes appear to be pH independent while those arising from the alpha-hemes are strongly pH dependent. It is concluded that it is the hydroxymet form of the alpha-hemes which undergoes spectral change upon inositol hexaphosphate binding to the beta-subunits. In methemoglobin A the spin state and paramagnetic susceptibility increase only in the neutral and alkaline pH ranges upon inositol hexaphosphate binding (Gupta, R.K. and Mildvan, R.S. (1975) J. Biol. Chem. 250, 246; Perutz, M.F., Sanders, J.K.M., Chenery, D.H., Noble, R.W., Penelly, R.R., Fung, L.W.-M., Ho, C., Giannini, I., Porschke, D. and Winkler, H. (1978) Biochemistry 17, 3640). Therefore the hydroxymet form of the alpha-hemes which is responsible for the observed spectral changes must also be responsible for these increases in the magnetic properties of methemoglobin A. Inositol hexaphosphate can bind to methemoglobin at alkaline pH if the beta-hemes are in the high spin form.