Peripheral neuropathy develops in human subjects with prediabetes and metabolic syndrome before overt hyperglycemia. The contributions of impaired glucose tolerance and insulin signaling, hypertriglyceridemia and/or increased nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA), and hypercholesterolemia to this condition remain unknown. Niacin and its derivatives alleviate dyslipidemia with a minor effect on glucose homeostasis. This study evaluated the roles of impaired glucose tolerance versus dyslipidemia in prediabetic neuropathy using Zucker fatty (fa/fa) rats and the niacin derivative acipimox, as well as the interplay of hypertriglyceridemia, increased NEFA, and oxidative-nitrosative stress. Sixteen-week-old Zucker fatty rats with impaired glucose tolerance, obesity, hyperinsulinemia, hypertriglyceridemia, hypercholesterolemia, and increased NEFA displayed sensory nerve conduction velocity deficit, thermal and mechanical hypoalgesia, and tactile allodynia. Acipimox (100 mg kg(-1) day(-1), 4 weeks) reduced serum insulin, NEFA, and triglyceride concentrations without affecting glucose tolerance and hypercholesterolemia. It alleviated sensory nerve conduction velocity deficit and changes in behavioral measures of sensory function and corrected oxidative-nitrosative stress, but not impaired insulin signaling, in peripheral nerve. Elevated NEFA increased total and mitochondrial superoxide production and NAD(P)H oxidase activity in cultured human Schwann cells. In conclusion, hypertriglyceridemia and/or increased NEFA concentrations cause prediabetic neuropathy through oxidative-nitrosative stress. Lipid-lowering agents and antioxidants may find a use in the management of this condition.
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