The structural requirements for binding to the glucose/sorbose-transport system in the human erythrocyte were explored by measuring the inhibition constants, Ki, for specifically substituted analogues of d-glucose when l-sorbose was the penetrating sugar. Derivatives in which a hydroxyl group in the d-gluco configuration was inverted, or replaced by a hydrogen atom, at C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4 or C-6 of the d-glucose molecule, all bound to the carrier, confirming that no single hydroxyl group is essential for binding to the carrier. The binding and transport of 1-deoxy-d-glucose confirmed that the sugars bind in the pyranose form. The relative inhibition constants of d-glucose and its deoxy, epimeric and fluorinated analogues are consistent with the combination of β-d-glucopyranose with the carrier by hydrogen bonds at C-1, C-3, probably C-4, and possibly C-6 of the sugar. Both polar and non-polar substituents at C-6 enhance the affinity of d-glucose derivatives relative to d-xylose, and d-galactose derivatives relative to l-arabinose, and it is suggested that the carrier region around C-6 of the sugar may contain both hydrophobic and polar binding groups. The spatial requirements at C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4 and C-6 were explored by comparing the relative binding of d-glucose and its halogeno and O-alkyl substituents. The carrier protein closely approaches the sugar except at C-3 in the d-gluco configuration, C-4 and C-6. d-Glucal was a good inhibitor, showing that a strict chair form is not essential for binding. 3-O-(2′,3′-Epoxypropyl)-d-glucose, a potential substrate-directed alkylating agent, bound to the carrier, but did not inactivate it.

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