Background/Aims Type 1 diabetes is often accompanied by gastrointestinal motility disturbances. Vagal neuropathy, hyperglycemia, and alterations in the myenteric plexus have been proposed as underlying mechanism. We therefore studied the relationship between vagal function, gastrointestinal motiliy and characteristics of the enteric nervous system in the biobreeding (BB) rat known as model for spontaneous type 1 diabetes. Methods Gastric emptying breath test, small intestinal electromyography, relative risk-interval variability, histology and immunohistochemistry on antral and jejunal segments were performed at 1, 8 and 16 weeks after diabetes onset and on age-matched controls. Results We observed no consistent changes in relative risk-interval variability and gastric emptying rate. There was however, a loss of phases 3 with longer duration of diabetes on small intestinal electromyography. We found a progressive decrease of nitrergic neurons in the myenteric plexus of antrum and jejunum, while numbers of cholinergic nerve were not altered. In addition, a transient inflammatory infiltrate in jejunal wall was found in spontaneous diabetic BB rats at 8 weeks of diabetes. Conclusions In diabetic BB rats, altered small intestinal motor control associated with a loss of myenteric nitric oxide synthase expression occurs, which does not depend on hyperglycemia or vagal dysfunction, and which is preceded by transient intestinal inflammation.
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