Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation





First Advisor

Dr. Bradley K. Taylor


Neuropathic pain affects up to 50% of the 29 million diabetic patients in the United States. Neuropathic pain in diabetes manifests as a disease of the peripheral and central nervous systems. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is far greater than type 1 (90%), yet the overwhelming focus on type 1 models this has left the mechanisms of pain in type 2 diabetes largely unknown. Therefore I aimed to improve the current mechanistic understanding of pain associated with type 2 diabetes using two preclinical rodent models: Zucker Diabetic Fatty rats and db/db mice. In addition, I highlight the translational importance of simultaneous measurement of evoked/sensory and non-evoked/affective pain-related behaviors in preclinical models. This work is the first to show a measure of motivational-affective pain in a model of type 2 diabetes.

I used methodological approaches including: (1) immunohistochemical and calcium imaging to assess stimulus-evoked sensitization; (2) measurement nociceptive behaviors and evoked sensory thresholds as well as pain affect using novel mechanical conflict avoidance and conditioned place preference/aversion assays; (3) pharmacological and genetic manipulation of methylglyoxal, TRPA1, AC1, and PPARγ.

I hypothesized that the thiazolidinedione class of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) agonists would reduce neuropathic pain-like behavior and spinal neuron sensitization in traumatic nerve injury and type 2 diabetes. As PPARγ is a nuclear receptor, and already targeted clinically to promote cellular insulin sensitization to reduce hyperglycemia, sustained changes in gene expression are widely believed to be the mechanism of pain reduction. In two separate research aims, I challenged this view and tested whether the PPARγ agonist pioglitazone would (1) rapidly alleviate neuropathic pain through a non-genomic mechanism and (2) reduce painful sensitization in nociceptive and neuropathic pain models independent from lowering blood glucose.

I aimed to investigate the contribution of the glucose metabolite methylglyoxal to painful type 2 diabetes. I tested the hypothesis that methylglyoxal produces nociceptive, evoked, and affective pain that is dependent on activation of the sensory neuron cation channel TRPA1 and the secondary messenger enzyme AC1. I also tested whether pioglitazone or the novel methylglyoxal scavenging peptide GERP10 could alleviate painful type 2 diabetes.