Advanced glycation end products (AGEs), formed during Maillard or browning reactions by nonenzymatic glycation and oxidation (glycoxidation) of proteins, have been implicated in the pathogenesis of several diseases, including diabetes and uremia. AGEs, such as pentosidine and carboxymethyllysine, are markedly elevated in both plasma proteins and skin collagen of uremic patients, irrespective of the presence of diabetes. The increased chemical modification of proteins is not limited to AGEs, because increased levels of advanced lipoxidation end products (ALEs), such as malondialdehydelysine, are also detected in plasma proteins in uremia. The accumulation of AGEs and ALEs in uremic plasma proteins is not correlated with increased blood glucose or triglycerides, nor is it determined by a decreased removal of chemically modified proteins by glomerular filtration. It more likely results from increased plasma concentrations of small, reactive carbonyl precursors of AGEs and ALEs, such as glyoxal, methylglyoxal, 3-deoxyglucosone, dehydroascorbate, and malondialdehyde. Thus, uremia may be described as a state of carbonyl overload or "carbonyl stress" resulting from either increased oxidation of carbohydrates and lipids (oxidative stress) or inadequate detoxification or inactivation of reactive carbonyl compounds derived from both carbohydrates and lipids by oxidative and nonoxidative chemistry. Carbonyl stress in uremia may contribute to the long-term complications associated with chronic renal failure and dialysis, such as dialysis-related amyloidosis and accelerated atherosclerosis. The increased levels of AGEs and ALEs in uremic blood and tissue proteins suggest a broad derangement in the nonenzymatic biochemistry of both carbohydrates and lipids.