This study measured the accumulation of substance P–like immunoreactivity (SPLI) proximal and distal to 12-h constricting ligatures applied to rat sciatic nerves. There were three separate experiments, and the baseline for each consisted of control and age-matched rats with 3 wk of untreated streptozocin-induced diabetes. We compared the effects of twice-daily insulin treatment, daily sorbinil (25 mg · kg−1 · day−1 p.o.), and a combination of both treatments. In untreated diabetic rats the anterograde accumulation of SPLI was reduced by 30–40%. This deficit was unaffected by sorbinil alone but was attenuated by insulin and prevented completely by insulin and sorbinil combined. There were also indications that diabetes caused reductions in retrograde accumulation of SPLI and its content in unconstricted nerve and the L4 dorsal root ganglion. The fraction of SPLI undergoing net anterograde or retrograde movement and the velocities of accumulation were unaffected by diabetes or the treatment regimens. These findings indicate a reduction in the amount of substance P moved by axonal transport in diabetic rats that is related partly to aldose reductase activity and partly to some other insulin-correctable consequence of experimental diabetes.

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