Nonenzymatic glycation appears to be an important factor in the pathogenesis of diabetic complications. Key early intermediates in this process are fructosamines, such as protein-bound fructoselysines. In this report, we describe the purification and characterization of a mammalian fructosamine-3-kinase (FN3K), which phosphorylates fructoselysine (FL) residues on glycated proteins, to FL-3-phosphate (FL3P). This phosphorylation destabilizes the FL adduct and leads to its spontaneous decomposition, thereby reversing the nonenzymatic glycation process at an early stage. FN3K was purified to homogeneity from human erythrocytes and sequenced by means of electrospray tandem mass spectrometry. The protein thus identified is a 35-kDa monomer that appears to be expressed in all mammalian tissues. It has no significant homology to other known proteins and appears to be encoded by genomic sequences located on human chromosomes 1 and 17. The lability of FL3P, the high affinity of FN3K for FL, and the wide distribution of FN3K suggest that the function of this enzyme is deglycation of nonenzymatically glycated proteins. Because the condensation of glucose and lysine residues is an ubiquitous and unavoidable process in homeothermic organisms, a deglycation system mediated by FN3K may be an important factor in protecting cells from the deleterious effects of nonenzymatic glycation. Our sequence data of FN3K are in excellent agreement with a recent report on this enzyme by Delpierre et al. (Diabetes 49:1627-1634, 2000).