Ghrelin alleviates paclitaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy by reducing oxidative stress and enhancing mitochondrial anti-oxidant functions in mice

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Paclitaxel is an effective chemotherapeutic agent, but has some treatment-limiting adverse effects that markedly decrease patients’ quality of life. Peripheral neuropathy is one of these, and no treatment for it has been established yet. Ghrelin, an endogenous ligand for the growth hormone secretagogue receptor, is secreted from the stomach and has widespread effects on multiple systems. We investigated the pharmacological potential of ghrelin in preventing paclitaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy using wild-type mice, ghrelin-null mice, and growth hormone secretagogue receptor-null mice. In wild-type mice, ghrelin administration alleviated mechanical and thermal hypersensitivity, and partially prevented neuronal loss of small unmyelinated intraepidermal nerve fibers but not large myelinated nerve fibers. Moreover, ghrelin administration decreased plasma oxidative and nitrosative stress and increased the expression of uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) and superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) in the dorsal root ganglia, which are mitochondrial antioxidant proteins, and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC-1α), a regulator of mitochondrial number. Both ghrelin-null mice and growth hormone secretagogue receptor-null mice developed more severe nerve injuries than wild-type mice. Our results suggest that ghrelin administration exerts a protective effect against paclitaxel-induced neuropathy by reducing oxidative stress and enhancing mitochondrial anti-oxidant functions, and that endogenous ghrelin has a neuroprotective effect that is mediated by ghrelin/growth hormone secretagogue receptor signaling. Ghrelin could be a promising therapeutic agent for the management of this intractable disease.

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