Diabetic polyneuropathy (DPN) is the most common complication of diabetes, yet its pathophysiology has not been established. Accumulating evidence suggests that long noncoding RNA metastasis-associated lung adenocarcinoma transcript 1 (MALAT1) plays pivotal roles in the regulation of cell growth and survival during diabetic complications. This study aimed to investigate the impact of MALAT1 silencing in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) sensory neurons, using an α-tocopherol–conjugated DNA/RNA heteroduplex oligonucleotide (Toc-HDO), on the peripheral nervous system of diabetic mice. We identified MALAT1 upregulation in the DRG of chronic diabetic mice that suggested either a pathological change or one that might be protective, and systemic intravenous injection of Toc-HDO effectively inhibited its gene expression. However, we unexpectedly noted that this intervention paradoxically exacerbated disease with increased thermal and mechanical nociceptive thresholds, indicating further sensory loss, greater sciatic-tibial nerve conduction slowing, and additional declines of intraepidermal nerve fiber density in the hind paw footpads. Serine/arginine-rich splicing factors, which are involved in pre-mRNA splicing by interacting with MALAT1, reside in nuclear speckles in wild-type and diabetic DRG neurons; MALAT1 silencing was associated with their disruption. The findings provide evidence for an important role that MALAT1 plays in DPN, suggesting neuroprotection and regulation of pre-mRNA splicing in nuclear speckles. This is also the first example in which a systemically delivered nucleotide therapy had a direct impact on DRG diabetic neurons and their axons.

This article contains supplementary material online at https://doi.org/10.2337/figshare.19325774.

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