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Impaired inhibitory G-protein function contributes to increased calcium currents in rats with diabetic neuropathy

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There is a growing body of evidence that sensory neuropathy in diabetes is associated with abnormal calcium signaling in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. Enhanced influx of calcium via multiple high-threshold calcium currents is present in sensory neurons of several models of diabetes mellitus, including the spontaneously diabetic BioBred/Worchester (BB/W) rat and the chemical streptozotocin (STZ)-induced rat. We believe that abnormal calcium signaling in diabetes has pathologic significance as elevation of calcium influx and cytosolic calcium release has been implicated in other neurodegenerative conditions characterized by neuronal dysfunction and death. Using electrophysiologic and pharmacologic techniques, the present study provides evidence that significant impairment of G-protein-coupled modulation of calcium channel function may underlie the enhanced calcium entry in diabetes. N- and P-type voltage-activated, high-threshold calcium channels in DRGs are coupled to mu opiate receptors via inhibitory G(o)-type G proteins. The responsiveness of this receptor coupled model was tested in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons from spontaneously-diabetic BB/W rats, and streptozotocin-induced (STZ) diabetic rats. Intracellular dialysis with GTPgammaS decreased calcium current amplitude in diabetic BB/W DRG neurons compared with those of age-matched, nondiabetic controls, suggesting that inhibitory G-protein activity was diminished in diabetes, resulting in larger calcium currents. Facilitation of calcium current density (I(DCa)) by large-amplitude depolarizing prepulses (proposed to transiently inactivate G proteins), was significantly less effective in neurons from BB/W and STZ-induced diabetic DRGs. Facilitation was enhanced by intracellular dialysis with GTPgammaS, decreased by pertussis toxin, and abolished by GDPbetaS within 5 min. Direct measurement of GTPase activity using opiate-mediated GTPgamma[(35)S] binding, confirmed that G-protein activity was significantly diminished in STZ-induced diabetic neurons compared with age-matched nondiabetic controls. Diabetes did not alter the level of expression of mu opiate receptors and G-protein alpha subunits. These studies indicate that impaired regulation of calcium channels by G proteins is an important mechanism contributing to enhanced calcium influx in diabetes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Journal of Neurophysiology 86: 760–770, 2001. Reprinted with permission from the American Physiological Society.

Publication date: June 1, 2002

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