Diabetes and the myo-inositol Paradox

  1. Franz M Matschinsky
  1. Diabetes Center and the Department of Biophysics and Biochemistry, The University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Franz Matschinsky, 510 Medical Education Building, 36th and Hamilton Walk, The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.


To test the general applicability of the hypothesis that diabetes mellitus causes increased polyol pathway activity, decreased tissue free myo-inositol, and resultant pathological changes in tissues susceptible to the ravages of diabetes, we measured glucose, sorbitol, and myo-inositol with quantitative histochemical techniques in layers of the cornea, the aortic myointima, the cardiac left ventricle and atrioventricular node (AVN), and retina and kidney after 19 days or 2 mo (mildly diabetic non-insulin-treated [MD] and severely diabetic insulin-treated [SD] groups) in the alloxan-induced diabetes model. In the aqueous humor, glucose rose linearly with increased serum glucose, sorbitol was markedly increased in the MD and SD groups, and myo-inositol did not change in any diabetic group. There was no change in glucose or sorbitol in aortic myointima in any group, but myo-inositol was decreased in 19-day diabetic rabbits by 26%, unchanged in MD rabbits but paradoxically increased by 60% in SD rabbits. Glucose, sorbitol, and myo-inositol increased in all three corneal layers in SD rabbits but only in epithelium and stroma in 19-day and MD rabbits. AVN glucose and sorbitol did not change in 19-day diabetic, MD, or SD diabetic rabbits. AVN myo-inositol was three times higher than ventricular myo-inositol and did not appear to change in SD rabbits. Retinal pigmented epithelium myo-inositol was decreased 30% in SD rabbits. Glomerular myo-inositol was also decreased, but not significantly, in SD rabbits. We conclude that the paradoxical increase in corneal and aortal myo-inositol raises fundamental questions about the general applicability of the myo-inositol-depletion hypothesis.

  • Received October 24, 1989.
  • Revision received May 15, 1990.
  • Accepted May 15, 1990.
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