Targeting axon integrity to preventchemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy

Virendra Bhagawan Chine, Ngan Pan Bennett Au, Gajendra Kumar, Chi Him Eddie Ma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is an irreversible off-target adverse effect of many chemotherapeutic agents such as paclitaxel, yet its mechanism is poorly understood and no preventative measure is available. CIPN is characterized by peripheral nerve damages resulting in permanent sensory function deficits. Our recent unbiased genome-wide analysis revealed that heat shock protein (Hsp) 27 is part of a transcriptional network induced by axonal injury and highly enriched for genes involved in adaptive neuronal responses, particularly axonal regeneration. To examine if Hsp27 could prevent the occurrence of CIPN, we first demonstrated that paclitaxel-induced allodynia was associated directly with axonal degeneration in sensory neurons in a mouse model of CIPN. We therefore hypothesize that by preventing axonal degeneration could prevent the development of CIPN. We drove expression of human Hsp27 (hHsp27) specifically in neurons. Development of mechanical and thermal allodynia was prevented completely in paclitaxel-treated hHsp27 transgenic mice. Strikingly, hHsp27 protected against paclitaxel-induced neurotoxicity in vivo including degeneration of afferent nerve fibers, demyelination, mitochondrial swelling, apoptosis, and restored sensory nerve action potential. Finally, we delineated signaling cascades that link CIPN development to caspase 3 and RhoA/cofilin activation in sensory neurons and peripheral nerves. hHsp27 exerted anti-apoptotic effect and maintained axon integrity by restoring caspase 3 and RhoA expression to basal levels. Taken together, our data suggest that by preventing axonal degeneration might prove beneficial as anti-CIPN drugs, which represents an emerging research area for therapeutic development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3244-3259
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number5
Early online date16 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • Apoptosis
  • Axonal degeneration
  • Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy
  • Heat shock protein 27
  • Paclitaxel

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