The Role of Glyoxalase in Glycation and Carbonyl Stress Induced Metabolic Disorders

Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2020;21(9):846-859. doi: 10.2174/1389203721666200505101734.


Glycation refers to the covalent binding of sugar molecules to macromolecules, such as DNA, proteins, and lipids in a non-enzymatic reaction, resulting in the formation of irreversibly bound products known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are synthesized in high amounts both in pathological conditions, such as diabetes and under physiological conditions resulting in aging. The body's anti-glycation defense mechanisms play a critical role in removing glycated products. However, if this defense system fails, AGEs start accumulating, which results in pathological conditions. Studies have been shown that increased accumulation of AGEs acts as key mediators in multiple diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, arthritis, cancer, atherosclerosis, decreased skin elasticity, male erectile dysfunction, pulmonary fibrosis, aging, and Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, glycation of nucleotides, proteins, and phospholipids by α-oxoaldehyde metabolites, such as glyoxal (GO) and methylglyoxal (MGO), causes potential damage to the genome, proteome, and lipidome. Glyoxalase-1 (GLO-1) acts as a part of the anti-glycation defense system by carrying out detoxification of GO and MGO. It has been demonstrated that GLO-1 protects dicarbonyl modifications of the proteome and lipidome, thereby impeding the cell signaling and affecting age-related diseases. Its relationship with detoxification and anti-glycation defense is well established. Glycation of proteins by MGO and GO results in protein misfolding, thereby affecting their structure and function. These findings provide evidence for the rationale that the functional modulation of the GLO pathway could be used as a potential therapeutic target. In the present review, we summarized the newly emerged literature on the GLO pathway, including enzymes regulating the process. In addition, we described small bioactive molecules with the potential to modulate the GLO pathway, thereby providing a basis for the development of new treatment strategies against age-related complications.

Keywords: GLO; GO; MGO; advanced glycation end products (AGEs); carbonyl stress induced metabolic disorders; metabolic pathway.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Deoxyglucose / analogs & derivatives
  • Deoxyglucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced / genetics
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced / metabolism*
  • Glyoxal / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Lactoylglutathione Lyase / genetics
  • Lactoylglutathione Lyase / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Diseases / genetics
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Diseases / pathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Protein Carbonylation
  • Pyruvaldehyde / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Schiff Bases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Glycation End Products, Advanced
  • Isoenzymes
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Schiff Bases
  • Glyoxal
  • Pyruvaldehyde
  • Deoxyglucose
  • GLO1 protein, human
  • Lactoylglutathione Lyase
  • 3-deoxyglucosone