3-Ketoglucose and similar ketosugars have been identified in microorganisms only and little is known about their functions. UDP-sugars are widely found as an intermediate in sugar metabolism in living organisms. Yet what role UDP-sugars play, or whether they play a direct role in metabolism, is still unknown. UDP-sugars were isolated and purified from bovine heart muscle, and a UDP-sugar fraction capable of NAD(P)H-dependent catalytic reduction of metmyoglobin was detected. Subsequent identification revealed that the active UDP-sugar was UDP-3- or UDP-4-ketoglucosamine. These compounds were purified from bovine cardiac muscle by ultrafiltration, anion-exchange column chromatography and reverse-phase chromatography. They were further characterized by determination of their chemical reducing activity, by comparison with synthetic UDP-3- or UDP-4-ketoglucosamine standards using high-performance liquid chromatography, by estimation of molecular mass using fast atom bombardment mass spectrometry, and by Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy and electron probe microanalysis. The results suggest that UDP-3- or UDP-4-ketoglucosamine reduces metmyoglobin in bovine cardiac muscle. It is important that the reducing activity displayed by this ketosugar is not the effect of UDP-3- or UDP-4-ketoglucosamine alone but depends on NAD(P)H. In other words, this action of UDP-3- or UDP-4-ketoglucosamine is catalytic.

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