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The anti-apoptotic activity of albumin for endothelium is inhibited by advanced glycation end products restricting intramolecular movement


Human serum albumin (HSA) inhibits endothelial apoptosis in a highly specific manner. CNBr fragmentation greatly increases the effectiveness of this activity, suggesting that this type of protection is mediated by a partially cryptic albumin domain which is transiently exposed by intramolecular movement. Advanced glycation end-product (AGE) formation in HSA greatly reduces its intra-molecular movement. This study aimed to determine if this inhibits the anti-apoptotic activity of HSA, and if such inactivation could be reversed by CNBr fragmentation. HSA-AGE was prepared by incubating HSA with glucose, and assessed using the fructosamine assay, mass spectrometry, SDS-PAGE and fluorometry. Low levels of AGE in the HSA had little effect upon its anti-apoptotic activity, but when the levels of AGE were high and the intra-molecular movement was reduced, endothelial cell survival was also found to be reduced to levels equivalent to those in cultures without HSA or serum (p > 0.001). Survival was restored by the inclusion of native HSA, despite the presence of HSA with high levels of AGE. Also, CNBr fragmentation of otherwise inactive HSA-AGE restored the anti-apoptotic activity for endothelium. Apoptosis was confirmed by DNA gel electrophoresis, transmission electron microscopy and fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis, and there was no evidence for direct toxicity in the HSA-AGE preparations. The results are consistent with the proposed role of intra-molecular movement in exposing the anti-apoptotic domain in HSA for endothelium. The levels of AGE formation required to inhibit the anti-apoptotic activity of HSA exceeded those reported for diabetes. Nonetheless, the data from this study seems to be the first example of reduced protein function due to AGE-restricted intra-molecular movement.



advanced glycation end product


human serum albumin


human umbilical vein endothelial cells


phosphate-buffered saline


supplemented calf serum


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Correspondence to Hans Zoellner.

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Key words

  • Apoptosis
  • Cryptic domain
  • Endothelium
  • HSA