Diabetic neuropathic pain: A role for testosterone metabolites

Donato Calabrese, Silvia Giatti, Simone Romano, Carla Porretta-Serapiglia, Roberto Bianchi, Marco Milanese, Giambattista Bonanno, Donatella Caruso, Barbara Viviani, Fabrizio Gardoni, Luis Miguel Garcia-Segura, Roberto Cosimo Melcangi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diabetic neuropathy is associated with neuropathic pain in about 50% of diabetic subjects. Clinical management of neuropathic pain is complex and so far unsatisfactory. In this study, we analyzed the effects of the testosterone metabolites, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and 3α-diol, on nociceptive and allodynia thresholds and on molecular and functional parameters related to pain modulation in the dorsal horns of the spinal cord and in the dorsal root ganglia of rats rendered diabetic by streptozotocin injection. Furthermore, the levels of DHT and 3α-diol were analyzed in the spinal cord. Diabetes resulted in a significant decrease in DHT levels in the spinal cord that was reverted by DHT or 3α-diol treatments. In addition, 3α-diol treatment resulted in a significant increase in 3α-diol in the spinal cord compared with control values. Both steroids showed analgesic properties on diabetic neuropathic pain, affecting different pain parameters and possibly by different mechanisms of action. Indeed, DHT counteracted the effect of diabetes on the mechanical nociceptive threshold, pre- and post-synaptic components, glutamate release, astrocyte immunoreactivity, and expression of interleukin-1β (IL1β), while 3α-diol was effective on tactile allodynia threshold, glutamate release, astrocyte immunoreactivity and the expression of substance P, toll-like receptor 4, tumor necrosis factor-α, transforming growth factor β-1, IL1β, and translocator protein. These results indicate that testosterone metabolites are potential agents for the treatment of diabetic neuropathic pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Endocrinology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • Astrocyte immunoreactivity
  • Cytokines
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Glutamate
  • Neuroactive steroids
  • Streptozotocin
  • Substance p
  • Synaptic proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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