Paclitaxel-induced painful neuropathy is associated with changes in mitochondrial bioenergetics, glycolysis, and an energy deficit in dorsal root ganglia neurons

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Painful neuropathy is the major dose-limiting side effect of paclitaxel chemotherapy. Mitochondrial dysfunction and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) deficit have previously been shown in peripheral nerves of paclitaxel-treated rats, but the effects of paclitaxel in the dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) have not been explored. The aim of this study was to determine the bioenergetic status of DRG neurons following paclitaxel exposure in vitro and in vivo. Utilising isolated DRG neurons, we measured respiratory function under basal conditions and at maximal capacity, glycolytic function, and Adenosine diphosphate (ADP)/ATP levels at 3 key behavioural timepoints; prior to pain onset (day 7), peak pain severity and pain resolution. At day 7, maximal respiration and spare reserve capacity were significantly decreased in DRG neurons from paclitaxel-treated rats. This was accompanied by decreased basal ATP levels and unaltered ADP levels. At peak pain severity, respiratory function was unaltered, yet glycolytic function was significantly increased. Reduced ATP and unaltered ADP levels were also observed at the peak pain timepoint. All these effects in DRG neurons had dissipated by the pain resolution timepoint. None of these paclitaxel-evoked changes could be replicated from in vitro paclitaxel exposure to naive DRG neurons, demonstrating the impact of in vivo exposure and the importance of in vivo models. These data demonstrate the nature of mitochondrial dysfunction evoked by in vivo paclitaxel in the DRG for the first time. Furthermore, we have identified paclitaxel-evoked changes in the bioenergetics of DRG neurons, which result in a persistent energy deficit that is causal to the development and maintenance of paclitaxel-induced pain.

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