Elevated neurofilament light chain (NFL) mRNA levels in prediabetic peripheral neuropathy

Mol Biol Rep. 2014 Jun;41(6):4017-22. doi: 10.1007/s11033-014-3270-y. Epub 2014 Apr 15.


Evidence suggests that peripheral nerve injury occurs during the early stages of disease with mild glycemic dysregulation. Two proteins, neuron-specific enolase (NSE) and neurofilament light chain (NFL), have been examined previously as possible markers of neuronal damage in the pathophysiology of neuropathies. Herein, we aimed to determine the potential value of circulatory NSE and NFL mRNA levels in prediabetic patients and in those with peripheral neuropathy. This prospective clinical study included 45 prediabetic patients and 30 age- and sex-matched controls. All prediabetic patients were assessed with respect to diabetes-related microvascular complications, such as peripheral neuropathy, retinopathy and nephropathy. mRNA levels of NSE and NFL were determined in the blood by real-time polymerase chain reaction. NSE mRNA levels were similar between prediabetic and control groups (p > 0.05), whereas NFL mRNA levels were significantly higher in prediabetics than in controls (p < 0.001). NSE mRNA levels did not significantly differ between prediabetic patients with and without peripheral neuropathy (p > 0.05), while NFL mRNA levels were significantly higher in prediabetics with peripheral neuropathy than in those without (p = 0.038). According to correlation analysis, NFL mRNA levels were positively correlated with the Douleur Neuropathique 4 questionnaire score in prediabetic patients (r = 0.302, p = 0.044). This is the first study to suggest blood NFL mRNA as a surrogate marker for early prediction of prediabetic peripheral neuropathy, while NSE mRNA levels may be of no diagnostic value in prediabetic patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filaments
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurofilament Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Neurofilament Proteins / genetics
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / genetics*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / biosynthesis
  • Prediabetic State / genetics*
  • Prediabetic State / pathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics


  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • neurofilament protein L
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase