Suramin-Induced Neurotoxicity: Preclinical Models and Neuroprotective Strategies

Molecules. 2018 Feb 7;23(2):346. doi: 10.3390/molecules23020346.


Suramin is a trypan blue analogon originally developed to treat protozoan infections, which was found to have diverse antitumor effects. One of the most severe side effects in clinical trials was the development of a peripheral sensory-motor polyneuropathy. In this study, we aimed to investigate suramin-induced neuropathy with a focus on calcium (Ca2+) homeostasis as a potential pathomechanism. Adult C57Bl/6 mice treated with a single injection of 250 mg/kg bodyweight suramin developed locomotor and sensory deficits, which were confirmed by electrophysiological measurements showing a predominantly sensory axonal-demyelinating polyneuropathy. In a next step, we used cultured dorsal root ganglia neurons (DRGN) as an in vitro cell model to further investigate underlying pathomechanisms. Cell viability of DRGN was significantly decreased after 24-hour suramin treatment with a calculated IC50 of 283 µM. We detected a suramin-induced Ca2+ influx into DRGN from the extracellular space, which could be reduced with the voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC) inhibitor nimodipine. Co-incubation of suramin and nimodipine partially improved cell viability of DRGN after suramin exposure. In summary, we describe suramin-induced neurotoxic effects on DRGN as well as potentially neuroprotective agents targeting intracellular Ca2+ dyshomeostasis.

Keywords: TRP channels; calcium; neuroprotection; suramin; voltage-gated calcium channels.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neuroprotection / drug effects*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Neurotoxins / adverse effects*
  • Polyneuropathies / drug therapy
  • Polyneuropathies / etiology
  • Polyneuropathies / physiopathology
  • Suramin / adverse effects*


  • Calcium Channels
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Neurotoxins
  • Suramin
  • Calcium