The perivascular innervation of the superior mesenteric artery and vein was examined using immunohistochemical and immunoassay techniques in rats 8 weeks after induction of diabetes with streptozotocin (STZ). Increased density of innervation and fluorescence intensity was noted for substance P– and calcitonin gene-related peptide–immunoreactive nerves in the diabetic vessels. A slight increase in the density of vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-immunoreactive nerve fibers innervating the mesenteric artery was also noted. However, there was no change in the density of neuropeptide Y– and dopamine β-hydroxylase–immunoreactive nerve fibers, although the fluorescence intensity of neuropeptide Y–immunoreactive nerve fibers was reduced in diabetic rat vessels. Immunoassays showed that the levels of substance P– and calcitonin gene–related peptide were increased > 10-fold in the diabetic mesenteric vein, while levels of neuropeptide Y and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide were unchanged. In summary, there is a marked increase in nerve fibers containing sensory neuropeptides in mesenteric vessels of STZ-induced diabetic rats, which, in view of the reported impaired sensorimotor function in these vessels, is likely to reflect a neuropathic change.

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