The objective of this study was to investigate the inhibitory effect of naturally occurring flavonoids on individual stage of protein glycation in vitro using the model systems of delta-Gluconolactone assay (early stage), BSA-methylglyoxal assay (middle stage), BSA-glucose assay, and G.K. peptide-ribose assay (last stage). In the early stage of protein glycation, luteolin, qucertin, and rutin exhibited significant inhibitory activity on HbA1C formation (p < 0.01), which were more effective than that of aminoguanidine (AG, 10 mM), a well-known inhibitor for advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). For the middle stage, luteolin and rutin developed more significant inhibitory effect on methylglyoxal-medicated protein modification, and the IC50's were 66.1 and 71.8 microM, respectively. In the last stage of glycation, luteolin was found to be potent inhibitors of both the AGEs formation and the subsequent cross-linking of proteins. In addition, phenyl-tert-butyl-nitron served as a spin-trapping agent, and electron spin resonance (ESR) was used to explore the possible mechanism of the inhibitory effect of flavonoids on glycation. The results indicated that protein glycation was accompanied by oxidative reactions, as the ESR spectra showed a clear-cut radical signal. Statistical analysis showed that inhibitory capability of flavonoids against protein glycation was remarkably related to the scavenging free radicals derived from glycoxidation process (r = 0.79, p < 0.01). Consequently, the inhibitory mechanism of flavonoids against glycation was, at least partly, due to their antioxidant properties
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