Persistent neurotoxic side effects of oxaliplatin (OX) chemotherapy, including sensory ataxia, limit the efficacy of treatment and significantly diminish patient quality of life. The common explanation for neurotoxicity is neuropathy, however the degree of neuropathy varies greatly among patients and appears insufficient in some cases to fully account for disability. We recently identified an additional mechanism that might contribute to sensory ataxia following OX treatment. In the present study, we tested whether that mechanism, selective modification of sensory signaling by muscle proprioceptors might result in behavioral deficits in rats. OX was administered once per week for seven weeks (cumulative dose i.p. 70mg/kg) to adult female Wistar rats. Throughout and for three weeks following treatment, behavioral analysis was performed daily on OX and sham control rats. Compared to controls, OX rats demonstrated errors in placing their hind feet securely and/or correctly during a horizontal ladder rung task. These behavioral deficits occurred together with modification of proprioceptor signaling that eliminated sensory encoding of static muscle position while having little effect on encoding of dynamic changes in muscle length. Selective inability to sustain repetitive firing in response to static muscle stretch led us to hypothesize that OX treatment impairs specific ionic currents, possibly the persistent inward Na currents (NaPIC) that are known to support repetitive firing during static stimulation in several neuron types, including the class of large diameter dorsal root ganglion cells that includes muscle proprioceptors. We tested this hypothesis by determining whether the chronic effects of OX on the firing behavior of muscle proprioceptors in vivo were mimicked by acute injection of NaPIC antagonists. Both riluzole and phenytoin, each having multiple drug actions but having only antagonist action on NaPIC in common, reproduced selective modification of proprioceptor signaling observed in OX rats. Taken together, these findings lead us to propose that OX chemotherapy contributes to movement disability by modifying sensory encoding, possibly via a chronic neurotoxic effect on NaPIC in the sensory terminals of muscle proprioceptors.
Keywords: Chemotherapy; Neuropathy; Neurotoxicity; Sensorimotor deficits; muscle proprioceptors.
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