Recent studies have demonstrated a marked increase in the level of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in the plasma, skin and amyloid fibrils of hemodialysis (HD) patients. The presence of AGEs in (beta2m) forming amyloid fibrils has been established in a previous immunochemical study relying on a monoclonal anti-AGE antibody. In the present study, Western blot analysis and immunohistochemistry reveal that the epitope recognized by this antibody is N epsilon-(carboxymethyl)lysine (CML) and that CML is one of the AGE structures present in amyloid fibrils. Thus, two AGE structures, CML and pentosidine, are now recognized in dialysis-related amyloidosis. AGE accumulation in uremia is not accounted for by elevated glucose levels. Since CML and pentosidine formation are closely linked to oxidative processes, we tested the hypothesis that a high oxidative stress enhanced AGE formation in HD patients. We focused on ascorbic acid (AA) because AA is easily oxidized under oxidative stress and its oxidized form (oxiAA) is a source of CML and pentosidine. In vitro incubation of beta2m with AA under atmospheric oxygen resulted in: (1) the rapid appearance of characteristic physicochemical properties of AGEs (brown color, fluorescence, polymerization tendency); (2) the transformation of beta2m into AGE-modified beta2m recognized by a specific monoclonal antibody; and (3) the accelerated formation of CML in beta2m and beta2m-peptide, recognized by mass spectrometry. A similar in vitro incubation of human serum albumin disclosed a parallel production of pentosidine measured by high-performance liquid chromatographic assay. In HD patients, the degree of AA oxidation, assessed as the ratio of oxiAA to total ascorbate, was more than twice as high as that of normal subjects (0.87 +/- 0.16 vs. 0.35 +/- 0.11, P < 0.0001), suggesting the presence of an increased oxidative stress. Interestingly, plasma level of oxiAA was correlated with the plasma levels of protein linked (P < 0.01, r2 = 0.25) and free (P < 0.05, r2 = 0.22) pentosidine. Altogether these results demonstrate that AGE, that is, CML and pentosidine, production is accelerated under oxidative stress, even in the absence of glucose. They suggest that, in uremia, CML and pentosidine production is determined both by an increased oxidative stress and the availability of precursors such as oxiAA. Finally, both CML and pentosidine contribute to the AGEs present in dialysis-related amyloid fibrils.