Modeling chemotherapeutic neurotoxicity with human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neuronal cells

PLoS One. 2015 Feb 17;10(2):e0118020. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118020. eCollection 2015.


There are no effective agents to prevent or treat chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), the most common non-hematologic toxicity of chemotherapy. Therefore, we sought to evaluate the utility of human neuron-like cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as a means to study CIPN. We used high content imaging measurements of neurite outgrowth phenotypes to compare the changes that occur to iPSC-derived neuronal cells among drugs and among individuals in response to several classes of chemotherapeutics. Upon treatment of these neuronal cells with the neurotoxic drug paclitaxel, vincristine or cisplatin, we identified significant differences in five morphological phenotypes among drugs, including total outgrowth, mean/median/maximum process length, and mean outgrowth intensity (P < 0.05). The differences in damage among drugs reflect differences in their mechanisms of action and clinical CIPN manifestations. We show the potential of the model for gene perturbation studies by demonstrating decreased expression of TUBB2A results in significantly increased sensitivity of neurons to paclitaxel (0.23 ± 0.06 decrease in total neurite outgrowth, P = 0.011). The variance in several neurite outgrowth and apoptotic phenotypes upon treatment with one of the neurotoxic drugs is significantly greater between than within neurons derived from four different individuals (P < 0.05), demonstrating the potential of iPSC-derived neurons as a genetically diverse model for CIPN. The human neuron model will allow both for mechanistic studies of specific genes and genetic variants discovered in clinical studies and for screening of new drugs to prevent or treat CIPN.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / toxicity*
  • Cell Line
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Silencing
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Neurites / drug effects
  • Neurites / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Paclitaxel / toxicity
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Tubulin / deficiency
  • Tubulin / genetics


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Tubulin
  • Paclitaxel