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J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2004 May;63(5):450-60.

Experimental rat models of types 1 and 2 diabetes differ in sympathetic neuroaxonal dystrophy.

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Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


Dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system is a recognized complication of diabetes, ranging in severity from relatively minor sweating and pupillomotor abnormality to debilitating interference with cardiovascular, genitourinary, and alimentary dysfunction. Neuroaxonal dystrophy (NAD), a distinctive distal axonopathy involving terminal axons and synapses, represents the neuropathologic hallmark of diabetic sympathetic autonomic neuropathy in man and several insulinopenic experimental rodent models. Although the pathogenesis of diabetic sympathetic NAD is unknown, recent studies have suggested that loss of the neurotrophic effects of insulin and/or insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) on sympathetic neurons rather than hyperglycemia per se, may be critical to its development. Therefore, in our current investigation we have compared the sympathetic neuropathology developing after 8 months of diabetes in the streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rat and BB/ Wor rat, both models of hypoinsulinemic type 1 diabetes, with the BBZDR/Wor rat, a hyperglycemic and hyperinsulinemic type 2 diabetes model. Both STZ- and BB/Wor-diabetic rats reproducibly developed NAD in nerve terminals in the prevertebral superior mesenteric sympathetic ganglia (SMG) and ileal mesenteric nerves. The BBZDR/Wor-diabetic rat, in comparison, failed to develop superior mesenteric ganglionic NAD in excess of that of age-matched controls. Similarly, NAD which developed in axons of ileal mesenteric nerves of BBZDR/Wor rats was substantially less frequent than in BB/Wor- and STZ-rats. These data, considered in the light of the results of previous experiments, argue that hyperglycemia alone is not sufficient to produce sympathetic ganglionic NAD, but rather that it may be the diabetes-induced superimposed loss of trophic support, likely of IGF-I, insulin, or C-peptide, that ultimately causes NAD.

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