The relationship between long-term glycemic control and the advanced Maillard reaction was investigated in dura mater collagen and lens proteins from dogs that were diabetic for 5 years. Diabetic dogs were assigned prospectively to good, moderate, and poor glycemic control and maintained by insulin. Biochemical changes were determined at study exit. Mean levels of collagen digestibility by pepsin decreased (NS) whereas collagen glycation (P < 0.001), pentosidine cross-links (P < 0.001), and collagen fluorescence (P = 0.02) increased with increasing mean HbA1 values. Similarly, mean levels of lens crystallin glycation (P < 0.001), fluorescence (P < 0.001), and the specific advanced lens Maillard product 1 (LM-1) (P < 0.001) and pentosidine (P < 0.005) increased significantly with poorer glycemic control. Statistical analysis revealed very high Spearman correlation coefficients between collagen and lens changes. Whereas pentosidine cross-links were significantly elevated in collagen from diabetic dogs with moderate levels of HbA1 (i.e., 8.0 ± 0.4%), lens pentosidine levels were normal in this group and were elevated (P < 0.001) only in the animals with poor glycemic control (HbA1 = 9.7 ± 0.6%). Thus, whereas protein glycation and advanced glycation in the extracellular matrix and in the lens are generally related to the level of glycemic control, there is evidence for a tissue-specific glycemic threshold for pentosidine formation, i.e., glycoxidation, in the lens. This threshold may be in part linked to a dramatic acceleration in crystallin glycation with HbA1 values of > 8.0% and/or a loss of lens membrane permeability. This study provides support at the molecular level for the growing concept that glycemic thresholds may be involved in the development of some of the complications in diabetes.

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