Glucose reacts nonenzymatically with the amino groups of proteins to form stable, cross-linking adducts called advanced glycation end products or AGEs. While several lines of evidence have established that AGEs accumulate in tissues and contribute to the pathological sequelae of diabetes and aging, the identity of the major cross-link(s) that forms in vivo has remained enigmatic. This has been considered to be due to the labile nature and to the low fluorescence properties of this cross-link, despite the fact that fluorescence has been generally associated with AGE formation in vivo. Accordingly, the few AGE adducts that have been isolated thus far from proteins in vivo or from model systems in vitro have been found to account for only a fraction of the glucose-derived cross-links that occur in tissues. This situation has been further underscored by the development of a well-characterized class of antibodies that recognize in vivo AGEs but which fail to react with the structurally defined AGEs that have been identified to date. This particular class of anti-AGE antibodies has proven valuable in the quantification of AGE-modified forms of hemoglobin, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and beta-amyloid peptide, and can provide prognostic information on the course of certain diabetic complications. To obtain insight into the structure of this immunoreactive, AGE adduct, we used an anti-AGE antibody (RU) as a probe to isolate novel AGE(s) that formed within a reaction mixture of glucose and the model glycation substrate, N(alpha)-CBZ-Arg-Lys. HPLC purification of an immunoreactive fraction that accumulated in this preparation showed the presence of a compound that was determined by (1)H NMR and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) to be a stable, imidazole-based cross-link (termed arginine-lysine imidazole or ALI). The properties of ALI, immunoreactivity, acid-lability, nonfluorescence, and inhibition of formation by aminoguanidine, suggest that ALI is likely to typify an important class of the AGE cross-links that form in vivo.