Neuroimmunological complications arising from chemotherapy-induced gut toxicity and opioid exposure in female dark agouti rats

Juliana Esma Bajic, Gordon Stanley Howarth, Suzanne Mashtoub, Alexandra Louise Whittaker, Larisa Bobrovskaya, Mark Rowland Hutchinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Cancer patients may experience symptom clusters, including chemotherapy-induced (CI) gut toxicity (CIGT) and cognitive impairment. Analgesic selection for pain associated with CIGT is difficult as opioids induce glial reactivity and unwanted side effects. This study quantified central glial reactivity and proinflammatory effects in rats with CIGT using three mechanistically different analgesics. Regional adaptations were indicative of immune-to-brain signaling routes. Utilizing a 5-fluorouracil-induced GT (5IGT) rat model and analgesic intervention (carprofen (CAR), buprenorphine (BUP), and tramadol (TRAM)), spinal and brain neuroimmune modulation was examined via microglial, astrocyte, and proinflammatory (cluster of differentiation molecule 11b; CD11b, glial fibrillary associated protein; GFAP, and interleukin-1 beta; IL1β) reactivity marker expression changes by western blot analysis. 5IGT significantly increased thoracic GFAP (p < 0.05) and IL-1β (p < 0.0001) expression, CAR and BUP ameliorated these effects. BUP and TRAM with 5-FU synergistically increased hippocampal GFAP expression. CAR administered with 5IGT significantly elevated hippocampal and thoracic CD11b expression levels (p < 0.05). The neuroimmune responses observed in this study suggest activation of peripheral-to-central immune signaling pathways. We speculate that the opioid-induced hippocampal changes inferred a humorally mediated mechanism, whereas thoracic neuroimmune modifications indicated activation of an indirect neural route. Although TRAM ameliorated 5IGT-intestinal inflammation, this opioid presents complications relating to bodyweight and regional glial dysregulation (neuroinflammation) and may not be optimal in the management of pain associated with 5IGT. The chemotherapy-induced gut-derived neuroimmune consequences observed suggest a potential mechanistic contribution to central components of the cancer symptom cluster experience, while the opioid-related glial changes have implications for optimal pain management in this setting warranting further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-250
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number1
Early online date12 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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