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Oxaliplatin, an effective cytotoxic treatment in combination with 5-fluorouracil for colorectal cancer, is associated with sensory, motor and autonomic neurotoxicity. Motor symptoms include hyperexcitability while autonomic effects include urinary retention, but the cause of these side-effects is unknown. We examined the effects on motor nerve function in the mouse hemidiaphragm and on the autonomic system in the vas deferens. In the mouse diaphragm, oxaliplatin (0.5 mM) induced multiple endplate potentials (EPPs) following a single stimulus, and was associated with an increase in spontaneous miniature EPP frequency. In the vas deferens, spontaneous excitatory junction potential frequency was increased after 30 min exposure to oxaliplatin; no changes in resting Ca(2+) concentration in nerve terminal varicosities were observed, and recovery after stimuli trains was unaffected. In both tissues, an oxaliplatin-induced increase in spontaneous activity was prevented by the voltage-gated Na(+) channel blocker tetrodotoxin (TTX). Carbamazepine (0.3 mM) also prevented multiple EPPs and the increase in spontaneous activity in both tissues. In diaphragm, beta-pompilidotoxin (100 microM), which slows Na(+) channel inactivation, induced multiple EPPs similar to oxaliplatin's effect. By contrast, blockers of K(+) channels (4-aminopyridine and apamin) did not replicate oxaliplatin-induced hyperexcitability in the diaphragm. The prevention of hyperexcitability by TTX blockade implies that oxaliplatin acts on nerve conduction rather than by effecting repolarisation. The similarity between beta-pompilidotoxin and oxaliplatin suggests that alteration of voltage-gated Na(+) channel kinetics is likely to underlie the acute neurotoxic actions of oxaliplatin.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Pharmacol

Publication Date





1027 - 1039


Action Potentials, Animals, Antineoplastic Agents, Autonomic Nervous System, Calcium, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Neuromuscular Junction, Organoplatinum Compounds, Potassium Channels, Sodium Channels, Synaptic Transmission, Vas Deferens