Evidence for Interindividual Heterogeneity in the Glucose Gradient across the Human Red Blood Cell Membrane and its Relationship to Hemoglobin Glycation

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology



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Medical Subject Headings

Adult; Carbon Radioisotopes; Diabetes Mellitus; Erythrocyte Membrane; Erythrocytes; Female; Fructosamine; Glucose; Glycosylation; Guanosine; Hemoglobin A, Glycosylated; Homeostasis; Humans; Male; Middle Aged; Models, Biological; Risk Factors; Urea; Water



To determine whether interindividual heterogeneity in the erythrocyte (red blood cell [RBC]) transmembrane glucose gradient might explain discordances between A1C and glycemic control based on measured fructosamine.


We modeled the relationship between plasma glucose and RBC glucose as the concentration distribution (C(i)-to-C(o) ratio) of a nonmetabolizable glucose analog (14)C-3-O-methyl glucose ((14)C-3OMG) inside (C(i)) and outside (C(o)) RBCs in vitro. We examined the relationship between that distribution and the degree of glycation of hemoglobin in comparison with glycation of serum proteins (fructosamine), the glycation gap. A1C, fructosamine, and in vitro determination of the (14)C-3OMG distribution in glucose-depleted RBCs were measured in 26 fasted subjects.


The C(i)-to-C(o) ratio 0.89 +/- 0.07 for 3-O-methyl-d-glucopyranose (3OMG) ranged widely (0.72-1.04, n = 26). In contrast, urea C(i)-to-C(o) (1.015 +/- 0.022 [range 0.98-1.07], P < 0.0001) did not. Concerning mechanism, in a representative subset of subjects, the C(i)-to-C(o) ratio was retained in RBC ghosts, was not dependent on ATP or external cations, and was reestablished after reversal of the glucose gradient. The 3OMG C(i)-to-C(o) ratio was not correlated with serum fructosamine, suggesting that it was independent of mean plasma glucose. However, C(i)-to-C(o) did correlate with A1C (R(2) = 0.19) and with the glycation gap (R(2) = 0.20), consistent with a model in which differences in internal glucose concentration at a given mean plasma glucose contribute to differences in A1C for given level of glycemic control.


The data demonstrate interindividual heterogeneity in glucose gradients across RBC membranes that may affect hemoglobin glycation and have implications for diabetes complications risk and risk assessment.

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Citation: Diabetes. 2008 Sep;57(9):2445-52. Epub 2008 Jun 30. Link to article on publisher's site

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