Molecular events that result in loss of pain perception are poorly understood in diabetic neuropathy. Our results show that the receptor for advanced glycation end products (RAGE), a receptor associated with sustained NF-κB activation in the diabetic microenvironment, has a central role in sensory neuronal dysfunction. In sural nerve biopsies, ligands of RAGE, the receptor itself, activated NF-κBp65, and IL-6 colocalized in the microvasculature of patients with diabetic neuropathy. Activation of NF-κB and NF-κB–dependent gene expression was upregulated in peripheral nerves of diabetic mice, induced by advanced glycation end products, and prevented by RAGE blockade. NF-κB activation was blunted in RAGE-null (RAGE–/–) mice compared with robust enhancement in strain-matched controls, even 6 months after diabetes induction. Loss of pain perception, indicative of long-standing diabetic neuropathy, was reversed in WT mice treated with soluble RAGE. Most importantly, loss of pain perception was largely prevented in RAGE–/– mice, although they were not protected from diabetes-induced loss of PGP9.5-positive plantar nerve fibers. These data demonstrate, for the first time to our knowledge, that the RAGE–NF-κB axis operates in diabetic neuropathy, by mediating functional sensory deficits, and that its inhibition may provide new therapeutic approaches.
Angelika Bierhaus, Karl-Matthias Haslbeck, Per M. Humpert, Birgit Liliensiek, Thomas Dehmer, Michael Morcos, Ahmed A.R. Sayed, Martin Andrassy, Stephan Schiekofer, Jochen G. Schneider, Jörg B. Schulz, Dieter Heuss, Bernhard Neundörfer, Stefan Dierl, Jochen Huber, Hans Tritschler, Ann-Marie Schmidt, Markus Schwaninger, Hans-Ulrich Haering, Erwin Schleicher, Michael Kasper, David M. Stern, Bernd Arnold, Peter P. Nawroth