Nonenzymatic glycosylation of protein: relevance to diabetes

Am J Med. 1981 Feb;70(2):325-30. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(81)90769-5.


Glucose can react nonenzymatically with proteins to form stable covalent linkages. The most abundant minor hemoglobin component in human red cells is hemoglobin AIc: glucose is attached to the N-terminal amino group of the beta chain by a ketoamine linkage. Hemoglobin AIc is increased two to three-fold in the red cells of diabetic patients. It is formed slowly and continuously throughout the 120-day lifespan of the red cell. Measurement of hemoglobin AIc provides an index of average blood glucose levels over the preceding two or three months. Thus, hemoglobin AIc has proved to be useful in assessing diabetic control and, perhaps, in screening people for diabetes. Many other proteins, such as lens crystallins, collagen and proteins in serum and in red cell membrane, are modified by nonenzymatic glycosylation. This structural alteration may lead to impaired protein function and, perhaps, contribute to the long-term complications of diabetes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose*
  • Blood Proteins
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / diagnosis
  • Hemoglobin A* / analysis
  • Hemoglobin A* / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Oxygen / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Blood Proteins
  • Hemoglobin A
  • Oxygen