Effect of clozapine on neutrophil kinetics in rabbits

Chem Res Toxicol. 2010 Jul 19;23(7):1184-91. doi: 10.1021/tx100035k.


Clozapine is an atypical antipsychotic drug effective in the treatment of refractory schizophrenia; however, its use is limited due to its propensity to cause agranulocytosis in some patients. Little is known about the mechanism of idiosyncratic drug-induced agranulocytosis, in part because of the lack of a valid animal model. Clozapine is oxidized by activated human neutrophils and bone marrow cells to a reactive nitrenium ion by the myeloperoxidase-hydrogen peroxide system of neutrophils. This reactive metabolite has been shown in vitro to induce the apoptosis of neutrophils and bone marrow cells. While in vitro studies demonstrated the toxic potential of clozapine upon oxidation, it is not clear if similar conditions occur in vivo. In response to the difficulties encountered with detecting apoptotic neutrophils in vivo, we conducted a series of studies in rabbits using two fluorescent cell-labeling techniques to study the effect of clozapine treatment on neutrophil kinetics, that is, their rates of production and removal from circulation. The fluorescein dye, 5-(and-6)-carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester (CFSE), was used as a general cell label to measure the half-life of neutrophils in blood. In addition, the thymidine analogue, 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU), was used to label dividing cells, thus enabling the measurement of the efflux of neutrophils from the bone marrow. Clozapine, indeed, increased the rate of both the release of neutrophils from the bone marrow and their subsequent disappearance from circulation. Failure of the bone marrow to compensate for a shorter neutrophil half-life could lead to agranulocytosis. Alternatively, the damage to neutrophils caused by clozapine could, in some patients, lead to an immune-mediated response against neutrophils resulting in agranulocytosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agranulocytosis / etiology
  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / blood
  • Antipsychotic Agents / toxicity*
  • Apoptosis
  • Clozapine / blood
  • Clozapine / toxicity*
  • Deoxyuridine / chemistry
  • Deoxyuridine / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Fluoresceins / chemistry
  • Fluoresceins / pharmacology
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Fluorescent Dyes / pharmacology
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Neutrophils / drug effects*
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Rabbits
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species / metabolism
  • Succinimides / chemistry
  • Succinimides / pharmacology


  • 5-(6)-carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species
  • Succinimides
  • Clozapine
  • Deoxyuridine