Thickening of capillary basement membrane has been demonstrated in diabetic subjects, and it is considered to be the characteristic pathological lesion of diabetic microvascular disease. There are studies reporting the effects of inhibitors of aldose reductase, the first enzyme of the polyol pathway, on the thickening of the capillary basement membrane. These observations indicate a significant role of the polyol pathway in the development of microvascular disease. However, it is unknown whether or not there is any correlation between the thickness of the capillary basement membrane and the activity of aldose reductase in diabetic patients. To clarify this issue, we measured the width of skeletal-muscle basement membrane and erythrocyte aldose reductase activity in 27 insulin-dependent diabetic and 8 nondiabetic individuals. The results showed that both the aldose reductase activity and the width of capillary basement membrane were increased in diabetic patients as compared to nondiabetic individuals (6.89 ± 0.38 versus 5.15 ± 0.60 mL/mU erythrocytes, p < 0.05 and 2257 ± 166 versus 1136 ± 69 Å, p < 0.0001, respectively) (means ± SE), but marked variability was observed in both the enzyme activity and the basement membrane thickness among the diabetic patients. There was a significant correlation between the capillary basement membrane thickness and the activity of erythrocyte aldose reductase (r = 0.51, p < 0.01) in diabetic patients. Our data suggest that the polyol pathway plays an important role in thickening of capillary basement membrane in diabetic individuals, and the variability in aldose reductase activity seen among diabetic patients may result in the varying susceptibility to the development of diabetic microvascular disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism