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Nepsilon-(Carboxymethyl)lysine (CML) is a stable chemical modification of proteins formed from both carbohydrates and lipids during autoxidation reactions. We hypothesized that carboxymethyl lipids such as (carboxymethyl)phosphatidylethanolamine (carboxymethyl-PE) would also be formed in these reactions, and we therefore developed a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry assay for quantification of carboxymethylethanolamine (CME) following hydrolysis of phospholipids. In vitro, CME was formed during glycation of dioleoyl-PE under air and from linoleoylpalmitoyl-PE, but not from dioleoyl-PE, in the absence of glucose. In vivo, CME was detected in lipid extracts of red blood cell membranes, approximately 0.14 mmol of CME/mol of ethanolamine, from control and diabetic subjects, (n = 22, p >> 0.5). Levels of CML in erythrocyte membrane proteins were approximately 0.2 mmol/mol of lysine for both control and diabetic subjects (p >> 0.5). For this group of diabetic subjects there was no indication of increased oxidative modification of either lipid or protein components of red cell membranes. CME was also detected in fasting urine at 2-3 nmol/mg of creatinine in control and diabetic subjects (p = 0.085). CME inhibited detection of advanced glycation end product (AGE)-modified protein in a competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay using an anti-AGE antibody previously shown to recognize CML, suggesting that carboxymethyl-PE may be a component of AGE lipids detected in AGE low density lipoprotein. Measurement of levels of CME in blood, tissues, and urine should be useful for assessing oxidative damage to membrane lipids during aging and in disease.

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