The effect of experimental diabetes on the phosphorylation of proteins in the rat sciatic nerve was studied. Nerves from animals made diabetic with streptozocin were incubated in vitro with [32P]orthophosphate and divided into segments from the proximal to the distal end, and proteins from each segment were then separated by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. The principal labeled species were the major myelin proteins, P0, and the basic proteins. After 6 wk of diabetes, the incorporation of isotope into these proteins rose as a function of distance along the nerve in a proximal to distal direction and was significantly higher at the distal end compared with incorporation into nerves from age-matched controls. The overall level of isotope uptake was similar in nerves from diabetic animals and weight-matched controls. The distribution of 32P among proteins also differed in diabetic nerve compared with both control groups in that P0 and the small basic protein accounted for a greater proportion of total label incorporated along the entire length of nerve. In contrast to intact nerve, there was no significant difference in protein phosphorylation when homogenates from normal and diabetic nerve were incubated with [32P]-γ-ATP. The results suggest that abnormal protein phosphorylation, particularly of myelin proteins, is a feature of experimental diabetic neuropathy and that the changes are most pronounced in the distal portion of the nerve.

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