To elucidate the pathogenesis of the peripheral neuropathy associated with hypoglycemia the anterograde fast component (aFC) of axonal transport was studied in nondiabetic rats during acute and prolonged insulin-induced hypoglycemia and in streptozocin-diabetic (STZ-D) rats with acute hypoglycemia. [35S]methionine and [3H]fucose were injected into the dorsal root ganglion (L5) to label protein and glycoprotein, respectively. During the 4 h of transport, thigh temperature was maintained constant. Acute severe hypoglycemia (1.5 ± 0.2 mM) was associated with a 36% decrease in the amount of aFC (2.3 ± 0.7% in the test group vs. 3.6 ± 0.8% in the controls), whereas transport velocity was unaffected. Prolonged hypoglycemia, obtained by pretreatment with insulin for 3 days, prevented the decrease in amount of aFC. In STZ-D rats, acute severe hypoglycemia (1.5 ± 0.6 mM) produced a similar but less-pronounced decrease of aFC. We conclude that hypoglycemia is associated with alterations in axonal transport that could play a role in development of neuropathy. Prolonged hypoglycemia protects axonal transport against the effects of glucopenia, and an untreated diabetic state maintained for several days has a partially protective effect against episodes of hypoglycemia.

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