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A model system using RNase A has been established for studying the nonenzymatic glucosylation and glucose-dependent cross-linking of protein (Maillard reaction) under physiological conditions in vitro. The rate of glucosylation of RNase was first order in glucose. Glucosylation was accompanied by a comparable decrease in primary amino groups in the protein and lysine recoverable by amino acid analysis. Analysis of glucosylation reaction mixtures by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis in the presence of mercaptoethanol revealed the time-dependent formation of RNase dimer and trimer. The polymerization reaction was mixed order with respect to glucose concentration, but was approximately first order with respect to protein concentration. When glucosylated protein was separated from glucose, the protein continued to polymerize even in the absence of glucose. Under these conditions, the primary cross-linking reaction occurred by condensation of a glucosylated amino acid on one RNase molecule with a free amino group on another. Lysine efficiently inhibited cross-linking between glucosylated and native RNase in the absence of glucose. An attempt to model the cross-linking reaction was made by studying the incorporation of [3H]lysine and N alpha-formyl-[3H]lysine into glucosylated RNase. Both were incorporated covalently into glucosylated but not native protein. However, free lysine was the major product recovered following NaBH4 reduction and amino acid analysis of the lysine derivative of glycosylated protein. The data are discussed in terms of the mechanism of protein cross-linking by glucose and the relevance of this reaction to the pathophysiology of diabetes.


This research was originally published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Eble AS, Thorpe SR, Baynes JW. Nonenzymatic Glucosylation and Glucose-dependent Cross-linking of Protein. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 1983; 258:9406-9412. © the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

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