Human low-density lipoprotein (LDL) was glucosylated by incubation in vitro with glucose (20–80 mM) with or without addition of cyanoborohydride. The incorporation of covalently bound glucose was linear over time, and amino acid analysis showed the presence of glucosyllysine residues. The glucosylated LDL (glc LDL) moved more rapidly than normal LDL on agarose electrophoresis.

The rate of degradation of 125I-labeled glucosylated LDL (glc LDL) by cultured human fibroblasts was reduced compared with that of native 125I-LDL, the difference increasing with extent of glucosylation. Effects were seen with blockage of as few as 6–15﹪ of the LDL lysine residues; high-affinity degradation was completely lost when one-third of the lysine residues were blocked. Conjugation of LDL with glucose-6-phosphate also blocked high-affinity uptake and degradation. Whereas native LDL uptake inhibited the activity of β-hydroxy-β-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase and stimulated acyl coenzyme A:cholesterol acyltransferase activity, glc LDL had no effects on these enzymes. The fractional catabolic rate of glc LDL in guinea pigs was reduced. Degradation of glc LDL by mouse peritoneal macrophages was not significantly faster than that of native LDL. Finally, the presence of glc LDL in human plasma was demonstrated. Preliminary data show that 1.3﹪ of lysine residues in normal LDL and 2–5.3﹪ of lysines in diabetic LDL were glucosylated. Since, like other plasma proteins, LDL undergoes glucosylation in diabetes, its turnover and sites of catabolism may differ from normal and this may be relevant to the accelerated atherosclerosis of diabetes.

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