Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a major, dose-limiting adverse effect experienced by cancer patients. Advancements in mechanism-based risk mitigation and effective treatments for CIPN can be aided by suitable in vitro assays. To this end, we developed a multiparametric morphology-centered rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) assay. Morphologic alterations in subcellular structures of neurons and non-neurons were analyzed with an automated microscopy system. Stains for NeuN (a neuron-specific nuclear protein) and Tuj-1 (β-III tubulin) were used to identify neuronal cell nuclei and neuronal cell bodies/neurites, respectively. Vimentin staining (a component of Schwann cell intermediate filaments) was used to label non-neuronal supporting cells. Nuclei that stained with DAPI, but lacked NeuN represented non-neuronal cells. Images were analyzed following 24 h of continuous exposure to CIPN-inducing agents and 72 h after drug removal to provide a dynamic measure of recovery from initial drug effects. Treatment with bortezomib, cisplatin, eribulin, paclitaxel or vincristine induced a dose-dependent loss of neurite/process areas, mimicking the 'dying back' degeneration of axons, a histopathological hallmark of clinical CIPN in vivo. The IC50 for neurite loss was within 3-fold of the maximal clinical exposure (Cmax) for all five CIPN-inducing drugs, but was >4- or ≥ 28-fold of the Cmax for 2 non-CIPN-inducing agents. Compound-specific effects, eg, neurite fragmentation by cisplatin or bortezomib and enlarged neuronal cell bodies by paclitaxel, were also observed. Collectively, these results support the use of a quantitative, morphologic evaluation and a DRG cell culture model to inform risk and examine mechanisms of CIPN.
Keywords: automated image analysis; early safety evaluation.; chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN); high content analysis (HCA); rat dorsal root ganglion cells (DRGs).
Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Toxicology 2017. This work is written by US Government employees and is in the public domain in the US.