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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 2;9(1):e83204. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083204. eCollection 2014.

Therapeutic effects of fenofibrate on diabetic peripheral neuropathy by improving endothelial and neural survival in db/db mice.

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  • 1Rehabilitation Medicine, Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea.
  • 2Department of Internal Medicine, Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Korea.


Neural vascular insufficiency plays an important role in diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN). Peroxisome proliferative-activated receptor (PPAR)α has an endothelial protective effect related to activation of PPARγ coactivator (PGC)-1α and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), but its role in DPN is unknown. We investigated whether fenofibrate would improve DPN associated with endothelial survival through AMPK-PGC-1α-eNOS pathway. Fenofibrate was given to db/db mice in combination with anti-flt-1 hexamer and anti-flk-1 heptamer (VEGFR inhibition) for 12 weeks. The db/db mice displayed sensory-motor impairment, nerve fibrosis and inflammation, increased apoptotic cells, disorganized myelin with axonal shrinkage and degeneration, fewer unmyelinated fibers, and endoneural vascular rarefaction in the sciatic nerve compared to db/m mice. These findings were exacerbated with VEGFR inhibition in db/db mice. Increased apoptotic cell death and endothelial dysfunction via inactivation of the PPARα-AMPK-PGC-1α pathway and their downstream PI3K-Akt-eNOS-NO pathway were noted in db/db mice, human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and human Schwann cells (HSCs) in high-glucose media. The effects were more prominent in response to VEGFR inhibition. In contrast, fenofibrate treatment ameliorated neural and endothelial damage by activating the PPARα-AMPK-PGC-1α-eNOS pathway in db/db mice, HUVECs and HSCs. Fenofibrate could be a promising therapy to prevent DPN by protecting endothelial cells through VEGF-independent activation of the PPARα-AMPK-PGC-1α-eNOS-NO pathway.

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