Hypoxic effect of exogenous insulin on normal and diabetic peripheral nerve

M. Kihara, P. J. Zollman, I. L. Smithson, T. D. Lagerlund, P. A. Low

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71 Scopus citations


Insulin administration can cause or worsen experimental and human diabetic neuropathy ('insulin neuritis'). In this study, we tested the hypothesis that insulin administration impairs tissue oxygenation. We infused insulin under nonhypoglycemic conditions and evaluated its effect on endoneurial oxygen tension, nerve blood flow, and the oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve of peripheral nerve in normal and diabetic rats. Intravenous insulin infusion resulted in a dose-dependent reduction in endoneurial oxygen tension in normal nerves (from 26% at 0.04 U/kg insulin to 55% at 32 U/kg). The nerves of rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes were resistant, but with control of hyperglycemia this susceptibility to the endoneurial hypoxic effect of insulin returned. The reduction in endoneurial oxygen tension regressed with glycosylated hemoglobin (Y = 53.8 - 2.7X, where Y = %reduction in endoneurial oxygen tension and X = Hb(A1); r = 0.87; P = < 0.001). Diabetes or insulin administration resulted in only minimal and physiologically insignificant alterations in the oxygen dissociation curve and 2,3-diphosphoglycerate of sciatic nerve. Instead, insulin administration resulted in a reduction in nerve nutritive blood flow and an increase in arteriovenous shunt flow. When the latter was eliminated by the closure of arteriovenous shunts (infusion of 5-hydroxytryptamine), endoneurial oxygen reverted to normal. These findings indicate a deleterious vasoactive effect of insulin and may explain the development of insulin neuritis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E980-E985
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6 29-6
StatePublished - 1994


  • diabetes
  • nerve blood flow
  • oxygen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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