Reaction of monosaccharides with proteins: possible evolutionary significance

Science. 1981 Jul 10;213(4504):222-4. doi: 10.1126/science.12192669.


Measurements were made of the rate of condensation of various monosaccharides with amino groups of hemoglobin to form Schiff base linkages. The reactivity of each sugar was dependent on the extent to which it exists in the open (carbonyl) structure rather than in the ring (hemiacetal or hemiketal) structure. Among the 15 monosaccharides tested, aldoses showed higher reactivities than ketoses. Glucose was the least reactive of the aldohexoses. The emergence of glucose as the primary metabolic fuel may be due in part to the high stability of its ring structure which limits potentially deleterious nonenzymatic glycosylation of proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Borohydrides / chemistry
  • Evolution, Chemical*
  • Glucose / chemistry
  • Glycolysis
  • Glycosylation
  • Hemoglobin A / chemistry*
  • Hexoses / chemistry
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Monosaccharides / chemistry*
  • Schiff Bases / chemical synthesis


  • Borohydrides
  • Hexoses
  • Monosaccharides
  • Schiff Bases
  • Hemoglobin A
  • sodium cyanoborohydride
  • Glucose