Oxidative stress impairs cardiac chemoreflexes in diabetic rats

Elena E. Ustinova, Carolyn J. Barrett, Shu Yu Sun, Harold D. Schultz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


We investigated the effects of diabetes mellitus and antioxidant treatment on the sensory and reflex function of cardiac chemosensory nerves in rats. Diabetes was induced by streptozotocin (STZ; 85 mg/kg ip). Subgroups of sham- and STZ-treated rats were chronically treated with an antioxidant, vitamin E (60 mg/kg per os daily, started 2 days before STZ). Animals were studied 6-8 wk after STZ injection. We measured renal sympathetic nerve activity (RSNA), mean arterial blood pressure (MABP), and cardiac vagal and sympathetic afferent activities in response to stimulation of chemosensitive sensory nerves in the heart by epicardial application of capsaicin (Caps) and bradykinin (BK). In cardiac Sympatheticdenervated rats, Caps and BK (1-10.0 μg) evoked a vagal afferent mediated reflex depression of RSNA and MABP, which was significantly blunted in STZ-treated rats (P < 0.05). In vagal-denervated rats, Caps and BK (1-10.0 μg) evoked a sympathetic afferent-mediated reflex elevation of RSNA and MABP, which also was significantly blunted in STZ-treated rats (P < 0.05). Chronic vitamin E treatment effectively prevented these cardiac chemoreflex defects in STZ-treated rats without altering resting blood glucose or hemodynamics. STZ-treated rats with insulin replacement did not exhibit impaired cardiac chemoreflexes. In afferent studies, Caps and BK (0.1 g-10.0 μg) increased cardiac vagal and sympathetic afferent nerve activity in a dose-dependent manner in sham-treated rats. These responses were significantly blunted in STZ-treated rats. Vitamin E prevented the impairment of afferent discharge to chemical stimulation in STZ rats. The following were concluded: STZ-induced, insulin-dependent diabetes in rats extensively impairs the sensory and reflex properties of cardiac chemosensitive nerve endings, and these disturbances can be prevented by chronic treatment with vitamin E. These results suggest that oxidative stress plays an important role in the neuropathy of this autonomic reflex in diabetes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H2176-H2187
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number5 48-5
StatePublished - 2000


  • Angina
  • Antioxidants
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Diabetes
  • Free radicals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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