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BACKGROUND: Advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) arise from the spontaneous reaction of reducing sugars with the amino groups of macromolecules. AGEs accumulate in tissue as a consequence of diabetes and aging and have been causally implicated in the pathogenesis of several of the end-organ complications of diabetes and aging, including cataract, atherosclerosis, and renal insufficiency. It has been recently proposed that components in mainstream cigarette smoke can react with plasma and extracellular matrix proteins to form covalent adducts with many of the properties of AGEs. We wished to ascertain whether AGEs or immunochemically related molecules are present at higher levels in the tissues of smokers. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Lens and coronary artery specimens from nondiabetic smokers and nondiabetic nonsmokers were examined by immunohistochemistry, immunoelectron microscopy, and ELISA employing several distinct anti-AGE antibodies. In addition, lenticular extracts were tested for AGE-associated fluorescence by fluorescence spectroscopy. RESULTS: Immunoreactive AGEs were present at significantly higher levels in the lenses and lenticular extracts of nondiabetic smokers (p < 0.003). Anti-AGE immunogold staining was diffusely distributed throughout lens fiber cells. AGE-associated fluorescence was significantly increased in the lenticular extracts of nondiabetic smokers (p = 0.005). AGE-immunoreactivity was significantly elevated in coronary arteries from nondiabetic smokers compared with nondiabetic nonsmokers (p = 0.015). CONCLUSIONS: AGEs or immunochemically related molecules are present at higher levels in the tissues of smokers than in nonsmokers, irrespective of diabetes. In view of previous reports implicating AGEs in a causal association with numerous pathologies, these findings have significant ramifications for understanding the etiopathology of diseases associated with smoking, the single greatest preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States.