Diabetic polyneuropathy (DPN) is the most common neuropathy manifested in diabetes. Symptoms include allodynia, pain, paralysis, and ulcer formation. There is currently no established radical treatment, although new mechanisms of DPN are being vigorously explored. A pathophysiological feature of DPN is abnormal glucose metabolism induced by chronic hyperglycemia in the peripheral nerves. Particularly, activation of collateral glucose-utilizing pathways such as the polyol pathway, protein kinase C, advanced glycation end-product formation, hexosamine biosynthetic pathway, pentose phosphate pathway, and anaerobic glycolytic pathway are reported to contribute to the onset and progression of DPN. Inhibitors of aldose reductase, a rate-limiting enzyme involved in the polyol pathway, are the only compounds clinically permitted for DPN treatment in Japan, although their efficacies are limited. This may indicate that multiple pathways can contribute to the pathophysiology of DPN. Comprehensive metabolic analysis may help to elucidate global changes in the collateral glucose-utilizing pathways during the development of DPN, and highlight therapeutic targets in these pathways.
Keywords: PKC; advanced glycation end-products; anaerobic glycolytic pathway; diabetic polyneuropathy; glucosamine; glycolysis; hexosamine biosynthetic pathway; oxidative stress; pentose phosphate pathway; polyol pathway.