Inhibition of sorbitol dehydrogenase exacerbates autonomic neuropathy in rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes

Robert E. Schmidt, Denise A. Dorsey, Lucie N. Beaudet, Santiago B. Plurad, Curtis A. Parvin, Kevin E. Yarasheski, Samuel R. Smith, Hans Jochen Lang, Joseph R. Williamson, Yasuo Ido

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16 Scopus citations


We have developed an animal model of diabetic autonomic neuropathy that is characterized by neuroaxonal dystrophy (NAD) involving ileal mesenteric nerves and prevertebral sympathetic superior mesenteric ganglia (SMG) in chronic streptozotocin (STZ)-diabetic rats. Studies with the sorbitol dehydrogenase inhibitor SDI-158, which interrupts the conversion of sorbitol to fructose (and reactions dependent on the second step of the sorbitol pathway), have shown a dramatically increased frequency of NAD in ileal mesenteric nerves and SMG of SDI-treated versus untreated diabetics. Although lesions developed prematurely and in greater numbers in SDI-treated diabetics, their distinctive ultrastructural appearance was identical to that previously reported in long-term untreated diabetics. An SDI effect was first demonstrated in the SMG of rats that were diabetic for as little as 5 wk and was maintained for at least 7.5 months. As in untreated diabetic rats, rats treated with SDI i) showed involvement of lengthy ileal, but not shorter, jejunal mesenteric nerves; ii) demonstrated NAD in paravascular mesenteric nerves distributed to myenteric ganglia while sparing adjacent perivascular axons ramifying within the vascular adventitia; and, iii) failed to develop NAD in the superior cervical ganglia (SCG). After only 2 months of SDI-treatment, tyrosine hydroxylase immunolocalization demonstrated marked dilatation of postganglionic noradrenergic axons in paravascular ileal mesenteric nerves and within the gut wall versus those innervating extramural mesenteric vasculature. The effect of SDI on diabetic NAD in SMG was completely prevented by concomitant administration of the aldose reductase inhibitor Sorbinil. Treatment of diabetic rats with Sorbinil also prevented NAD in diabetic rats not treated with SDI. These findings indicate that sorbitol pathway-linked metabolic imbalances play a critical role in the development of NAD in this model of diabetic sympathetic autonomic neuropathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1153-1169
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of neuropathology and experimental neurology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2001


  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Sorbitol pathway
  • Sympathetic neuroaxonal dystrophy


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