This investigation was carried out to explore the antidiabetic, antiapoptotic and neogenetic effects of melatonin (MLT) in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Sixty-four male rats were assigned randomly to one of four groups for periods of 21 and 42 d as follows; i) control, ii) MLT, iii) diabetic (DM), and iv) DM + MLT. Immunohistochemical methods were used -with pancreatic tissue to determine the intensity of insulin, caspase-3 and Bcl-x(L) immune reactivities, and new islet formation. In untreated DM rats, BW loss, increased plasma glucose and MLT concentrations, as well as cytoplasmic degranulation and vacuolization were observed. We also observed a marked increase in the number of apoptotic caspase-3 positive cells and a few insulin- positive cells, but not antiapoptotic Bcl-x(L) positive cells. Observations in the DM + MLT-treated group revealed a high intensity of insulin- and antiapoptotic Bcl-x(L) immune reactivities at 21 and 42 d. Moreover, data indicated that MLT may cause beta cell proliferation and that new small islets originate from cells associated with ductal epithelium and from centroacinar cells by day 21. These data indicate that; i) MLT treatment may stimulate neogenesis in the pancreas of diabetic rats, and ii) MLT's antiapoptotic action may increase beta cell differentiation and caspase-3 inactivation or Bcl-x(L) activation.
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