Experimental diabetic autonomic neuropathy

R. E. Schmidt, J. S. Nelson, E. M. Johnson

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94 Scopus citations


The regular occurrence of autonomic neuropathy, colonic dilatation, and loss of fecal consistency was investigated in streptozotocin-diabetic, age-matched control, and pancreatic-islet-transplanted rats using ultrastructural, histochemical, and biochemical methods. Degenerating unmyelinated axons were observed by electron microscopy in the colonic submucosa and muscularis, ileal mesentery, and splenic pedicle in 5-7-month diabetic animals; similar changes were not found in control rats or animals subjected to islet transplantation three weeks after induction of diabetes and sacrificed 4-6 months later (colon only). Regenerative changes, including axons with identifiable growth cones, were demonstrated in the mesenteric nerves of chronically diabetic animals. Formaldehyde-induced catecholamine fluorescence and cholinesterase histochemistry suggested deficiencies in colonic adrenergic and cholinergic innervation; histochemical findings in islet-transplanted animals were comparable to those of untreated control animals. Biochemical measurements of the adrenergic and cholinergic nervous system marker enzymes dopamine-β-hydroxylase and choline acetyltransferase, respectively, in colon and spleen confirm a deficit in adrenergic (colon and spleen) and cholinergic (colon) innervation in chronically diabetic animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-225
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1981


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