Relative growth and maturation of axon size and myelin thickness in the tibial nerve of the rat. 2. Effect of streptozotocin-induced diabetes

Acta Neuropathol. 1990;79(4):375-86. doi: 10.1007/BF00308713.


The relative changes in the growth and maturation of axon size and myelin thickness were studied in the medial plantar division of the tibial nerve in the lower leg and in the motor branches of the tibial nerve to the calf muscles in rats in which diabetes mellitus had been induced with streptozotocin at the time of weaning. Observations were made at 6 weeks and 3, 6, 9 and 12 months of diabetes for comparison with age-matched controls. Similar changes were observed in both nerves. Growth in body weight and skeletal growth was severely retarded from the time of induction of diabetes but at the 6-week stage axon size was not reduced, suggesting that neural growth may initially be relatively protected. At later stages axon size was consistently reduced in the diabetic animals as compared with the controls and showed an absolute reduction at 12 months, as compared with 9 months, that was greater than in the controls. Myelin thickness became reduced earlier and was more severely affected than axon size so that the fibers were relatively hypomyelinated. The myelin changes were greater in larger than in smaller fibers. The index of circularity of axons was reduced in the diabetic nerves. These results show that induction of diabetes in prepubertal rats produces effects on peripheral nerve fibers which differ from those resulting from diabetes induced in adult animals. The effects also differ between large and small nerve fibres. These observations may explain some of the disparate findings obtained in previous studies on experimental diabetes in rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / chemically induced
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Myelin Sheath / pathology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Streptozocin
  • Tibial Nerve / growth & development*
  • Tibial Nerve / physiopathology
  • Tibial Nerve / ultrastructure


  • Streptozocin