Neurochemical Research

, Volume 43, Issue 12, pp 2232–2239 | Cite as

Metformin attenuates increase of synaptic number in the rat spinal dorsal horn with painful diabetic neuropathy induced by type 2 diabetes: a stereological study

  • Jing-yan Lin
  • Yi-na He
  • Na Zhu
  • Bin PengEmail author
Original Paper


In our previous study, we have shown that number of synapses in the L5 segment of spinal dorsal horn increased significantly in a rat model of painful diabetic neuropathy (PDN) induced by high-dose of streptozotocin (an animal model of type 1 diabetes). The aims of this study were: (1) to determine whether high fat diet/low dose streptozotocin-diabetes, a rat model for type 2 diabetes, related PDN was also associated with this synaptic plasticity, (2) to reveal the range of this synaptic plasticity change occurred (in the whole length of spinal dorsal horn or only in the L5 lumbar segment of spinal dorsal horn) and (3) to discover whether treatment with metformin had effect on this synaptic plasticity. Male adult Sprague–Dawley rats were randomly allocated into the control group (n = 7), the PDN group (n = 6) and the PDN treated with metformin (PDN + M) group (n = 7), respectively. 28 days after medication, synaptic and neuronal numbers in the whole length of spinal dorsal horn or in 1 mm length of the L5 segment of spinal dorsal horn were estimated by the optical disector (a stereological technique). Compared to the control group and the PDN + M group, number of synapses in the L5 segment of spinal dorsal horn increased significantly in the PDN group (P < 0.05). There was no significant change between the control group and the PDN + M group in terms of the parameters in the L5 segment of the spinal dorsal horn (P > 0.05). Parameters of the whole length of spinal dorsal horn showed no significant changes (P > 0.05). Our results suggest that high fat diet/low dose streptozotocin diabetes related PDN is also associated with a numerical increase of synapses in the L5 segment of spinal dorsal horn but not in the whole length of spinal dorsal horn. Furthermore, the analgesic effect of metformin against PDN is related to its inhibition of numerical increase of synaptic number in the rat spinal dorsal horn.


Diabetes mellitus Neuropathic pain Synaptic plasticity Stereology Optical disector Metformin 



We thank Guoyun Qin, Buming Wan, Shuai He and Mingyou Wang (undergraduates of North Sichuan Medical College) for their assistance in the lab work and animal care.


This research was supported by the Grant of the Education Department of Sichuan (No. 16ZA0238) and the Grant from Special Project of Municipal-school Cooperation (NSMC20170443).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnesthesiologyThe Affiliated Hospital of North Sichuan Medical CollegeNanchongChina
  2. 2.Department of AnesthesiologyNanchong Central HospitalNanchongChina
  3. 3.Research Unit of Electron Microscopy StructuresNorth Sichuan Medical CollegeNanchongChina

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