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Biometals. 2012 Feb;25(1):237-45. doi: 10.1007/s10534-011-9492-8. Epub 2011 Sep 8.

Enhanced iron availability by protein glycation may explain higher infection rates in diabetics.

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Department of Chemistry, Pomona College, 645 North College Avenue, Claremont, CA 91711, USA.


Serum proteins exist in a state of higher glycation among individuals with poor glycemic control, notably diabetics. These non-enzymatic modifications via the Maillard reaction have far reaching effects on metabolism and regulation, and may be responsible for increased infection rates within this population. Here we explore the effects of glycation on iron metabolism and innate immunity by investigating the interaction between siderophores and bovine serum albumin (BSA). Using a quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring to quantify association rates, glycated BSA exhibited a significantly reduced affinity for apo and holo enterobactin compared to a non-glycated BSA standard. Bacterial growth assays in the presence of BSA and under iron-limited conditions indicated the growth rate of enterobactin-producing E. coli increased significantly when the BSA was in a glycated form. The results, in addition to data in the literature, support the hypothesis that glycation of serum proteins may effectively increase the available free iron pool for bacteria in blood serum and weaken our innate immunity. This phenomenon may be partially responsible for higher infection rates in some diabetics, especially those with poor glycemic control.

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