FAQ: What is the difference between glycosylation and glycation?

Glycosylation is a post-translational modification mediated by enzymes, in which a defined carbohydrate molecule is added to a predetermined region of the protein. Despite its intrinsic heterogenity, protein glycosylation is a controlled mechanism that confers defined properties to living cells. On the other hand glycation (sometimes incorrectly mentioned as glycosylation) is a random mechanism that occurs in the bloodstream. The reducing (reactive) ends of free sugars (glucose, fructose, galactose) covalently attach to proteins, creating glycated products. Glycation impairs protein function and stability, and it is related to several disease processes. For instance, in diabetic patients glycated hemoglobin is quantitated as a marker of high glucose levels over long periods of time.