The biosynthesis of human hemoglobin A1c. Slow glycosylation of hemoglobin in vivo

J Clin Invest. 1976 Jun;57(6):1652-9. doi: 10.1172/JCI108436.


Hemoglobin A1c, the most abundant minor hemoglobin component in human erythrocytes, is formed by the condensation of glucose with the N-terminal amino groups of the beta-chains of Hb A. The biosynthesis of this glycosylated hemoglobin was studied in vitro by incubating suspensions of reticulocytes and bone marrow cells with [3H]leucine or 59Fe-bound transferrin. In all experiments, the specific activity of Hb A1c was significantly lower than that of Hb A, suggesting that the formation of Hb A1c is a posttranslational modification. The formation of Hb A1c in vivo was determined in two individuals who were given an infusion of 59Fe-labeled transferrin. As expected, the specific activity of Hb A rose promptly to a maximum during the 1st week and remained nearly constant thereafter. In contrast, the specific activity of Hb A1c and also of Hbs A1a and A1b rose slowly, reaching that of Hb A by about day 60. These results indicate that Hb A1c is slowly formed during the 120-day life-span of the erythrocyte, probably by a nonenzymatic process. Patients with shortened erythrocyte life-span due to hemolysis had markedly decreased levels of Hb A1c.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Hemolytic / blood
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism
  • Glucosides / biosynthesis*
  • Glycosides / biosynthesis*
  • Hemoglobins / biosynthesis*
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Iron Radioisotopes
  • Leucine / metabolism
  • Reticulocytes / metabolism


  • Glucosides
  • Glycosides
  • Hemoglobins
  • Iron Radioisotopes
  • Leucine