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Genetic inactivation and pharmacological blockade of sigma-1 receptors prevent paclitaxel-induced sensory-nerve mitochondrial abnormalities and neuropathic pain in mice

Francisco R Nieto14, Cruz M Cendán1, Francisco J Cañizares2, María A Cubero2, José M Vela3, Eduardo Fernández-Segura2* and José M Baeyens1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacology, Biomedical Research Centre and Institute of Neuroscience, University of Granada, 18012 Granada, Spain

2 Department of Histology, Biomedical Research Centre and Institute of Neuroscience, University of Granada, 18012 Granada, Spain

3 Esteve, Drug Discovery and Preclinical Development, Parc Científic de Barcelona, Carrer Baldiri Reixac, 4-8, 08028 Barcelona, Spain

4 Current address: Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases, King’s College London, Wolfson Wing, Hodgkin Building, SE1 1UL London, UK

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Molecular Pain 2014, 10:11  doi:10.1186/1744-8069-10-11

Published: 11 February 2014



Paclitaxel, a widely-used antineoplastic drug, produces a painful peripheral neuropathy that in rodents is associated with peripheral-nerve mitochondrial alterations. The sigma-1 receptor (σ1R) is a ligand-regulated molecular chaperone involved in mitochondrial calcium homeostasis and pain hypersensitivity. This receptor plays a key role in paclitaxel-induced neuropathic pain, but it is not known whether it also modulates mitochondrial abnormalities.

In this study, we used a mouse model of paclitaxel-induced neuropathic pain to test the involvement of the σ1R in the mitochondrial abnormalities associated with paclitaxel, by using genetic (σ1R knockout mice) and pharmacological (σ1R antagonist) approaches.


Paclitaxel administration to wild-type (WT) mice produced cold- and mechanical-allodynia, and an increase in the frequency of swollen and vacuolated mitochondria in myelinated A-fibers, but not in C-fibers, of the saphenous nerve. Behavioral and mitochondrial alterations were marked at 10 days after paclitaxel-administration and had resolved at day 28. In contrast, paclitaxel treatment did not induce allodynia or mitochondrial abnormalities in σ1R knockout mice. Moreover, the prophylactic treatment of WT mice with BD-1063 also prevented the neuropathic pain and mitochondrial abnormalities induced by paclitaxel.


These results suggest that activation of the σ1R is necessary for development of the sensory nerve mitochondrial damage and neuropathic pain produced by paclitaxel. Therefore, σ1R antagonists might have therapeutic value for the prevention of paclitaxel-induced neuropathy.

Paclitaxel; Sigma-1 receptors; Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy; BD-1063; Mitochondria; Allodynia; Neuropathic pain; Sigma-1 receptor knockout mice