Arterial Baroreceptors and Experimental Diabetes


Address for correspondence: Helio C. Salgado, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Physiology, School of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo, 14049-900 Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil. Fax: (55) 16 633 0017;


Abstract: Alterations of the autonomic reflex control of the cardiovascular system have been demonstrated in clinical and animal models of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Established neuroaxonal dystrophy is considered the neuropathological hallmark of chronic experimental diabetes. However, the afferent arm of the arterial baroreflex, that is, the carotid sinus nerve and the aortic depressor nerve, has received much less attention in studies dealing with this physiopathological model. The attenuation of the pressure response to bilateral carotid occlusion in conscious rats indicates a derangement of the baroreflex, probably involving an alteration of the carotid sinus nerve. There is histological evidence obtained from adult spontaneous insulin-dependent diabetic rats (strain BB/S) of a carotid sinus nerve with signs of axonal swelling and intramyelinic edema, suggesting diabetic neuropathy. The study of aortic baroreceptor activity in anesthetized rats with short- and long-term streptozotocin diabetes by means of cross-spectral analysis of baroreceptor activity versus arterial pressure revealed a dysfunction in the afferent arm of the baroreflex even during a short period of diabetes. The morphology of the aortic depressor nerve of streptozotocin-diabetic rats indicated axonal atrophy by visual analysis remarkably at the distal segments of the nerves. This finding was confirmed by morphometric study of the myelinated fibers. In conclusion, although studies of the arterial baroreceptors related to experimental diabetes are scanty in the literature, there is electrophysiological and histological evidence demonstrating that the carotid sinus and the aortic depressor nerves are abnormal in this experimental model.