The effect of chronic dexamethasone-induced hyperglycemia and its acute treatment with insulin on brain glucose and glycogen concentrations in rats

Matthew D. Thompson, William J. Gallagher, Paul A. Iaizzo, William L. Lanier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: In the rat model of forebrain ischemia, long-term dexamethasone treatment is reported to cause hyperglycemia and worsen postischemic functional and histologic injury. This effect was assumed to result from glucose enhancement of intraischemic lactic acidosis within the brain. Short-term insulin therapy restored normoglycemia but did not return histologic injury completely to baseline values. Using a nonischemic rat model, the current study attempted to identify a metabolic basis for such outcome data. Methods: Fifty-eight halothane-anesthetized (1.3% inspired) Sprague-Dawley rats were assigned randomly to be administered either no treatment (N = 18) or 2 mg/kg intraperitoneal dexamethasone (N = 40). The latter were administered dexamethasone 3 h before the study only (N = 8) or for 3 h before the study plus daily for 1 day (N = 8), 2 days (N = 8), or 4 days (N = 16). Of the rats treated with dexamethasone for 4 days, one half (N = 8) were administered an insulin-containing saline infusion subsequently to restore normoglycemia short-term. All other rats (N = 50) were administered an infusion of saline without insulin. Plasma glucose was quantified, and brains were excised after in situ freezing. Brain glucose and glycogen concentrations were measured using enzymatic fluorometric analyses. Results: After 4 days of dexamethasone treatment, plasma glucose was 159% greater than in rats administered placebo (i.e., 22.01 ± 4.66 vs. 8.51 ± 1.65 μmol/ml; mean ± SD; P < 0.0001). Brain glucose concentrations increased parallel to plasma glucose. An insulin infusion for 27 ± 5 min restored normoglycemia but resulted in a brain-to-plasma glucose ratio that was 32% greater than baseline values (P < 0.01). Neither dexamethasone nor the combination of dexamethasone plus insulin affected brain glycogen concentrations. Conclusions: In a nonischemic rat model, dexamethasone alone had no independent effect on the brain-to-plasma glucose ratio. However, short-term insulin therapy caused a dysequilibrium between plasma and brain glucose, resulting in an underestimation of brain glucose concentrations when normoglycemia was restored. The dysequilibrium likely was caused by the rapid rate of glucose reduction. The magnitude of the effect may account for the failure of insulin to reverse dexamethasone enhancement of neurologic injury completely in a previous report that used the rat model of forebrain ischemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1279-1284
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000


  • Antioxidant steroids
  • Cerebral ischemia
  • Cerebral protection
  • Corticosteroids
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Lactic acidosis


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