The effect of streptozocin-induced diabetes (STZ-D) on right atrial structure was investigated in male Wistar rats. STZ (55 mg/kg) or saline (1 ml/kg) was administered by intravenous injection 12 wk before the experimental studies. Tissue was sampled from four regions of the atrium, processed, and embedded in plastic. Quantitative stereological analysis indicated that in STZ-D rats, there was a significant diminution in size of the musculi pectinati (muscular ridges), which form a network making up the wall of the atrium. In addition, within the muscular ridges, there was a significant reduction in the relative proportion of cardiocytes within the cardiac tissue. The rest of the cardiac tissue consisted of interstitial regions, connective tissue, and blood vessels, which correspondingly increased. This suggests there was some form of cardiomyopathy. When atrial granularity was determined relative to cardiocyte volume density, a significant decrease (54%) was found in tissue from STZ-D rats. The blood pressure of conscious STZ-D rats was significantly lower than control rats, whereas right atrial pressure was not different. The level of resting plasma immunoreactive atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) in conscious STZ-D rats (98 ± 5 pg/ml) was significantly higher than in control rats (52 ± 7 pg/ml). The decreased atrial granularity could be related to the higher resting plasma ANF levels, suggesting a more rapid turnover or increased synthesis bypassing storage in the granular form.

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