We investigated the effects of streptozocin-induced diabetes on composition and metabolism of rat erythrocyte lipids. Diabetes produced no change in contents of cholesterol, total phospholipids, and proportions of phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine in phospholipids. The acylation of total phospholipids with palmitic, oleic, or arachidonic acids was decreased (P < .01) in intact erythrocytes from diabetic versus control animals. This anomaly was underlaid by a decrease (P < .01) in acylation of phosphatidylcholine, whereas phosphatidylethanolamine was unaffected. The impaired acylation of phosphatidylcholine was unchanged in vitro by insulin or coenzyme A but was restored to control values by ATP and by insulin treatment of the diabetic rats. We conclude that diabetes specifically alters the acylation of at least phosphatidylcholine in rat erythrocyte, an effect that might modify the remodeling of erythrocyte phospholipids and thereby the membrane function.

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