McEwen, J.M., Fraser, S., Guir, A.L.S. et al. Synergistic sequence contributions bias glycation outcomes. Nat Commun 12, 3316 (2021). doi:10.1038/s41467-021-23625-8
The methylglyoxal-derived hydroimidazolone isomer, MGH-1, is an abundant advanced glycation end-product (AGE) associated with disease and age-related disorders. As AGE formation occurs spontaneously and without an enzyme, it remains unknown why certain sites on distinct proteins become modified with specific AGEs. Here, we use a combinatorial peptide library to determine the chemical features that favor MGH-1. When properly positioned, tyrosine is found to play an active mechanistic role that facilitates MGH-1 formation. This work offers mechanistic insight connecting multiple AGEs, including MGH-1 and carboxyethylarginine (CEA), and reconciles the role of negative charge in influencing glycation outcomes. Further, this study provides clear evidence that glycation outcomes can be influenced through long- or medium-range cooperative interactions. This work demonstrates that these chemical features also predictably template selective glycation on full-length protein targets expressed in mammalian cells. This information is vital for developing methods that control glycation in living cells and will enable the study of glycation as a functional post-translational modification.