Nrf2 and NF-κB modulation by sulforaphane counteracts multiple manifestations of diabetic neuropathy in rats and high glucose-induced changes

Curr Neurovasc Res. 2011 Nov;8(4):294-304. doi: 10.2174/156720211798120972.


High glucose driven reactive oxygen intermediates production and inflammatory damage are recognized contributors of nerve dysfunction and subsequent damage in diabetic neuropathy. Sulforaphane, a known chemotherapeutic agent holds a promise for diabetic neuropathy because of its dual antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. The present study investigated the effect of sulforaphane in streptozotocin (STZ) induced diabetic neuropathy in rats. For in vitro experiments neuro2a cells were incubated with sulforaphane in the presence of normal (5.5 mM) and high glucose (30 mM). For in vivo studies, sulforaphane (0.5 and 1 mg/kg) was administered six weeks post diabetes induction for two weeks. Motor nerve conduction velocity (MNCV), nerve blood flow (NBF) and pain behavior were improved and malondialdehyde (MDA) level was reduced by sulforaphane. Antioxidant effect of sulforaphane is derived from nuclear erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) activation as demonstrated by increased expression of Nrf2 and downstream targets hemeoxygenase-1 (HO-1) and NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO-1) in neuro2a cells and sciatic nerve of diabetic animals. Nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) inhibition seemed to be responsible for antiinflammatory activity of sulforaphane as there was reduction in NF-κB expression and IκB kinase (IKK) phosphorylation along with abrogation of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukine-6 (IL-6) levels. Here in this study we provide an evidence that sulforaphane is effective in reversing the various deficits in experimental diabetic neuropathy. This study supports the defensive role of Nrf2 in neurons under conditions of oxidative stress and also suggests that the NF-κB pathway is an important modulator of inflammatory damage in diabetic neuropathy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects*
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / blood*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / chemically induced
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / complications
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / drug therapy*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Hyperalgesia / drug therapy
  • Hyperalgesia / etiology
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Male
  • Malondialdehyde / metabolism
  • Mice
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism*
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Neural Conduction / drug effects
  • Pain Threshold / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Streptozocin / toxicity
  • Thiocyanates / administration & dosage*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Interleukin-6
  • Isothiocyanates
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • NF-kappa B
  • Thiocyanates
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Streptozocin
  • sulforafan