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Diabetes. 2003 Sep;52(9):2353-62.

Two phases of nitrergic neuropathy in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.

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  • 1Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, University College London, London, UK.


The distinction between metabolic and structural changes occurring in autonomic neurons during diabetes has not been fully clarified. Here we demonstrate that nitric oxide synthase-containing (nitrergic) neurons innervating the penis and gastric pylorus of streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats undergo a selective degenerative process in two phases. In the first phase, nitrergic nerve fibers lose some of their neuronal nitric oxide synthase content and function. In the second phase, nitrergic degeneration takes place in the cell bodies in the ganglia, leading to complete loss of nitrergic function. The changes in the first phase are reversible with insulin replacement; however, the neurodegeneration in the second phase is irreversible. Neurodegeneration is due to apoptotic cell death in the ganglia, which is selective for the nitrergic neurones.

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