Monosaccharide autoxidation (a transition metal-catalysed process that generates H2O2 and ketoaldehydes) appears to contribute to protein modification by glucose in vitro. The metal-chelating agent diethylenetriaminepenta-acetic acid (DETAPAC), which inhibits glucose autoxidation, also reduces the covalent attachment of glucose to bovine serum albumin. A maximal 45% inhibition of covalent attachment was observed, but this varied with glucose and DETAPAC concentrations in a complex fashion, suggesting at least two modes of attachment. The extent of inhibition of the metal-catalysed pathway correlated with the extent of inhibition of glycosylation-associated chromo- and fluorophore development. DETAPAC also inhibited tryptophan fluorescence quenching associated with glycosylation. Conversely, ketoaldehydes analogous to those produced by glucose autoxidation, but generated by 60Co irradiation, bound avidly to albumin and accelerated browning reactions. It is therefore suggested that a component of protein glycosylation is dependent upon glucose autoxidation and subsequent covalent attachment of ketoaldehydes. The process of glucose autoxidation, or ketoaldehydes derived therefrom, appear to be important in chromophoric and fluorophoric alterations. It is noted, consistent with these observations, that the chemical evidence for the currently accepted ‘Amadori’ product derived from the reaction of glucose with protein amino groups is consistent also with the structure expected for the attachment of a glucose-derived ketoaldehyde to protein. The concept of ‘autoxidative glycosylation’ is briefly discussed in relation to oxidative stress in diabetes mellitus.

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