We took advantage of the partial protection exerted by suitable dosages of nicotinamide against the β-cytotoxic effect of streptozotocin (STZ) to create a new experimental diabetic syndrome in adult rats that appears closer to NIDDM than other available animal models with regard to insulin responsiveness to glucose and sulfonylureas. Among the various dosages of nicotinamide tested in 3-month-old Wistar rats (100–350 mg/kg body wt), the dosage of 230 mg/kg, given intraperitoneally 15 min before STZ administration (65 mg/kg i.v.) yielded a maximum of animals with moderate and stable nonfasting hyperglycemia (155 ± 3 vs. 121 ± 3 mg/dl in controls; P < 0.05) and 40% preservation of pancreatic insulin stores. We also evaluated β-cell function both in vitro and in vivo 4–9 weeks after inducing diabetes. In the isolated perfused pancreas, insulin response to glucose elevation (5–11 mmol/l) was clearly present, although significantly reduced with respect to controls (P < 0.01). Moreover, the insulin response to tolbutamide (0.19 mmol/l) was similar to that observed in normal pancreases. Perfused pancreases from diabetic animals also exhibited a striking hypersensitivity to arginine infusion (7 mmol/l). In rats administered STZ plus nicotinamide, intravenous glucose tolerance tests revealed clear abnormalities in glucose tolerance and insulin responsiveness, which were interestingly reversed by tolbutamide administration (40 mg/kg i.v.). In conclusion, this novel NIDDM syndrome with reduced pancreatic insulin stores, which is similar to human NIDDM in that it has a significant response to glucose (although abnormal in kinetics) and preserved sensitivity to tolbutamide, may provide a particularly advantageous tool for pharmacological investigations of new insulinotropic agents.

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