Introduction: Abnormal sensations such as pain and impairment of taste are symptoms of approximately 10% of patients having diabetes mellitus. Aim: The aim of the study was to investigate and quantify the different neuropeptide containing nerve fi bres in the vallate papilla of the diabetic rat. Methods: Immunohistochemical methods were used to study the changes of the number of different neuropeptide containing nerve terminals located in the vallate papillae in diabetic rats. Diabetes was induced in the rats with streptozotocin. Results: Two weeks after streptozotocin treatment the number of the substance P, galanin, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide and neuropeptide Y immunoreactive nerve terminals was signifi cantly increased (p<0.05) in the tunica mucosa of the tongue. The number of the lymphocytes and mast cells was also increased signifi cantly. Some of the immunoreactive nerve terminals were located in the lingual epithelium both intragemmally and extragemmally and were seen to comprise dense bundles in the lamina propria just beneath the epithelium. No taste cells were immunoreactive for any of the investigated peptides. Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide and neuropeptide Y immunoreactive nerve fi bres were not detected in the taste buds. For weeks after streptozotocin administration the number of the substance P, calcitonin gene related peptide and galanin immunoreactive nerve terminals was decreased both intragemmally and intergemmally. In case of immediate insulin treatment, the number of the immunoreactive nerve terminals was similar to that of the controls, however, insulin treatment given 1 week later to diabetic rats produced a decreased number of nerve fi bers. Morphometry revealed no signifi cant difference in papilla size between the control and diabetic groups, but there were fewer taste buds (per papilla). Conclusions: Increased number of immunoreactive nerve terminals and mast cells 2 weeks after the development of diabetes was the consequence of neurogenic infl ammation which might cause vasoconstriction and lesions of the oral mucosa. Taste impairment, which developed 4 weeks after streptozotocin treatment could be caused by neuropathic defects and degeneration or morphological changes in the taste buds and nerve fi bres.
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