Glycation of albumin and its implication in Diabetes: A comprehensive analysis using mass spectrometry

Clin Chim Acta. 2021 Sep:520:108-117. doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2021.06.001. Epub 2021 Jun 3.


Aim: To understand the mechanism of glycation of albumin and effects on cysteinylation and methionine oxidation.

Methods: The in vitro glycation of HSA and BSA was studied with varying concentrations of glucose. Clinical blood samples of diabetic subjects with varying HbA1c values, were analyzed to assess in vivo glycation. All samples and their tryptic digests were analyzed using liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry. Glycation sites were mapped on to the three-dimensional structure of the HSA and BSA.

Results: A total thirty-one sites for glycation and eight sites of Nε-carboxymethyl-lysine (CML) modification were identified on albumin. The site selectivity of glycation was correlated with the environment of the reactive residue in the three-dimensional structure.

Conclusions: The maximum percentage glycation under extreme conditions was in the range of ~55 to 88% in four weeks. Two major glycation sites K-233 and K-525 were identified, which together accounted for 40-50% of total glycation. A correlation was observed between glycation and oxidation of methionine residues in samples glycated in vitro. The role of spatially proximate residues in facilitating the glycation process is evident. The tri- and tetra-glycated isoforms of albumin can serve as biomarkers for the severe uncontrolled diabetic state.

Keywords: Biomarker; Diabetes; Human serum albumin; LC/MS; Non-enzymatic glycation; Protein modification.

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus*
  • Glucose
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Serum Albumin* / metabolism


  • Glycation End Products, Advanced
  • Serum Albumin
  • Glucose