Low apparent aldose reductase activity, as measured by NADPH oxidation, can be produced by the spontaneous autoxidation of monosaccharides. NADPH is oxidized to metabolically active NADP+ in a solution of autoxidizing DL-glyceraldehyde at rates of up to 15 X 10(-4) A340/min. The close parallelism between the effects of buffer salt type and concentration, monosaccharide structure and temperature activation on autoxidation and NADPH oxidation imply that autoxidation is a prerequisite for the NADPH oxidation, probably via the hydroperoxy radical. Nucleotide-binding proteins enhanced NADPH oxidation induced by DL-glyceraldehyde, up to 10.6-fold with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase. Glutathione reductase-catalysed NADPH oxidation in the presence of autoxidizing monosaccharide showed many characteristics of the aldose reductase reaction. Aldose reductase inhibitors acted as antioxidants in inhibiting this NADPH oxidation. These results indicate that low apparent aldose reductase activities may be due to artifacts of monosaccharide autoxidation, and could provide an explanation for the non-linear steady-state kinetics observed with DL-glyceraldehyde and aldose reductase.

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