The Rho-kinase inhibitor fasudil restores normal motor nerve conduction velocity in diabetic rats by assuring the proper localization of adhesion-related molecules in myelinating Schwann cells

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The Rho/Rho-kinase signaling pathway has been shown to be involved in the complications of diabetes. In this study, we found that fasudil, a specific Rho-kinase inhibitor, had a beneficial effect on the motor nerve conduction velocity (MNCV), which is delayed in rats with streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetes. Cadherin-dependent adherens junctions (AJs) in myelinating Schwann cells, necessary for proper myelin formation and rapid propagation of action potentials, are regulated by Rho/Rho-kinase signaling. These AJ structures are maintained by E-cadherin and catenin complexes such as β-catenin and p120 catenin. To elucidate the mechanism underlying the effect of fasudil on MNCV, we examined alterations in AJ structure in the peripheral nerves of the experimental rats. Our results showed that the activities of Rho and Rho-kinase increased simultaneously in the sciatic nerves of the diabetic rats. Fasudil restored the MNCV by suppressing the up-regulation of the Rho-kinase. In the diabetic state, enhanced Rho and Rho-kinase activity reduced p120 catenin expression and altered the distribution of p120 catenin and E-cadherin, which are normally localized in the paranodal compartment of the nodes of Ranvier and Schmidt–Lanterman incisures where autotypic AJs stabilize myelin structure. Fasudil restored normal p120 catenin expression and the distribution of p120 catenin and E-cadherin in the myelin sheath.

In conclusion, reduced expression and altered distribution of the adhesion molecules in the myelin sheath might contribute to the slowing of the MNCV in the diabetic rats. Fasudil, through its effect on the distribution of the adhesion-related molecules, might prevent slowing of the MNCV.


▸ Rho-kinase activity was enhanced in the sciatic nerves of diabetic rats. ▸ Fasudil exerted beneficial effects on the delayed nerve conduction velocity. ▸ The enhanced Rho-kinase activity induced decrease in adhesion molecules. ▸ E-cadherin and p120-catenin were key adhesion molecules affected by Rho-kinase. ▸ Disorganized adhesion structures could relate to mechanisms of diabetic neuropathy.

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