Vitamin E deficiency in erythrocytes causes decreased cell survival, hypercoagulability, and increased adhesiveness to the endothelium. Similar abnormalities are found in erythrocytes of the diabetic population. This study examines the effect of diabetes on vitamin E and lipofuscin products (aging pigments) in erythrocytes of streptozocin-induced diabetic rats. Controls were injected with buffer alone, and a subgroup consisting of insulin-treated diabetic rats were injected daily with insulin for 2 mo. Mean ± SD vitamin E levels were 23.2 ± 4.9, 19.4 ± 3.2, and 25.9 ± 2.5 nmol/μmol phospholipid. Lipid fluorescence values (relative values/phospholipid) were 11.1 ± 1.9, 14.1 ± 2.6, and 11.9 ± 1.8 (excitation/emission 360/440 nm) in control, diabetic, and insulin-treated diabetic rats, respectively. Differences in vitamin E and lipofuscin products were significant between all control and diabetic groups and diabetic and insulin-treated diabetic groups. Reduction in vitamin E and increases in lipofuscin products in diabetic rats were significant even when values were expressed per micromole Hb or per 100 ml erythrocytes. This study demonstrates that hyperglycemia significantly reduces vitamin E and increases lipofuscin products in erythrocytes of diabetic rats. These effects were prevented with insulin treatment.

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