Pentosidine: a molecular marker for the cumulative damage to proteins in diabetes, aging, and uremia

Diabetes Metab Rev. 1991 Dec;7(4):239-51. doi: 10.1002/dmr.5610070404.


Collagen undergoes progressive browning with age and diabetes characterized by yellowing, fluorescence, and cross-linking. The present research was undertaken in order to investigate the nature of the collagen-linked fluorescence. Human collagen was exhaustively cleaved into peptides by enzymatic digestion. Upon purification, a highly fluorescent chromophore was identified and purified from old human collagen. Structure elucidation revealed the presence of an imidazo [4,5-b] pyridinium-type structure acting as a cross-link between arginine, lysine, and a pentose. This advanced glycosylation end-product and protein cross-link results from the reaction of pentoses with proteins and was named pentosidine. Further work indicated that long-term glycosylation of proteins with hexoses also leads to pentosidine formation through sugar fragmentation. The proposed mechanism of pentosidine formation involves the dehydration of the pentose-derived Amadori compound to form an intermediate which is attacked under base catalysis by the guanido group of arginine. The strict requirement for the Amadori rearrangement is uncertain. However, oxidation is definitely involved since pentosidine is not formed in the absence of oxygen. Five-carbon sugars contributing to pentosidine formation could be formed from larger sugars by oxidative fragmentation or from trioses, tetroses, and ketoses by condensation and/or reverse aldol reactions. Pentosidine increases exponentially in human skin at autopsy. Mean age-adjusted skin levels were significantly increased in subjects with uremia and especially in type 1 diabetics with uremia vs. controls. In skin biopsy, levels were significantly elevated in all diabetic (type 1) vs. control subjects. The highest degree of association was with the cumulative grade of diabetic complication (retinopathy, nephropathy, arterial stiffness, and joint stiffness). Pentosidine also forms in various proteins other than collagen, although to a much lesser extent. In blood, pentosidine is mainly associated with plasma proteins and is highly elevated during uremia. In the lens, it is associated with both water-soluble and -insoluble protein fractions and is especially elevated during brunescent cataract formation. The origin of pentosidine in vivo is uncertain. Evidence suggests that the pentoses are the most reactive sugars in pentosidine formation in vitro; however, the origin and importance of free pentoses in vivo, especially during the diabetic state, are not certain. Possible origins include hemolysis and/or a defect in the primary pentose metabolism.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Arginine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Arginine / analysis
  • Biomarkers
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism*
  • Dura Mater / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Lysine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Lysine / analysis
  • Uremia / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Collagen
  • Arginine
  • pentosidine
  • Lysine