Distribution of elements and water in peripheral nerve of streptozocin-induced diabetic rats

Joan M. Lowery, Joseph Eichberg, Albert J. Saubermann, Richard M. Lopachin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Accumulating evidence suggests that alterations in Na, Ca, K, and other biologically relevant elements play a role in the mechanism of cell injury. The pathogenesis of experimental diabetic neuropathy is unknown but might include changes in the distribution of these elements in morphological compartments. In this study, this possibility was examined via electron-probe X-ray microanalysis to measure both concentrations of elements (millimoles of element per kilogram dry or wet weight) and cell water content (percent water) in frozen, unfixed, unstained sections of peripheral nerve from control and streptozocin-induced diabetic rats. Our results indicate that after 20 wk of experimental diabetes, mitochondria and axoplasm from myelinated axons of proximal sciatic nerve displayed diminished K and Cl content, whereas in tibial nerve, the intra-axonal levels of these elements increased. In distal sciatic nerve, mitochondrial and axoplasmic levels of Ca were increased, whereas other elemental alterations were not observed. These regional changes resulted in a reversal of the decreasing proximodistal concentration gradients for K and Cl, which exist in nondiabetic rat sciatic nerve. Our results cannot be explained on the basis of altered water. Highly distinctive changes in elemental distribution observed might be a critical component of the neurotoxic mechanism underlying diabetic neuropathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1498-1503
Number of pages6
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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