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Acta Neuropathol. 1996 Jul;92(1):8-13.

Metabolites of 5-fluorouracil, alpha-fluoro-beta-alanine and fluoroacetic acid, directly injure myelinated fibers in tissue culture.

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Department of Neuropathology, Medical Research Institute, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Japan.


The neurotoxicity of two 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) derivatives, tegafur (FT) and carmofur (HCFU), which selectively induce leukoencephalopathy involving the cerebral white matter in humans and vacuolation of myelinated fibers in dogs and cats, was examined in vitro. The common metabolites of these drugs, alpha-fluoro-beta-alanine (FBAL) and fluoroacetic acid (FA), were added to the medium of cultured murine cerebellar myelinated fibers. On day 1 of exposure to 7 microM FBAL and FA, which corresponds to their blood concentrations 2 h after oral administration of 10 HCFU to dogs that induced central nervous system vacuolation after 30 days, partial splits of the myelinic intraperiod line were observed by electron microscopy. On days 4-7, phase contrast microscopy revealed spindle-shaped swelling and granulation of myelin and electron microscopy demonstrated prominent dissociation of the myelinic intraperiod line with monolocular and multilocular vacuolation. More severe changes, such as myelin loss, were found in cultures exposed to a higher concentration (70 microM) of FBAL and FA, but no remarkable neuronal, astrocytic or oligodendrocytic changes occurred. Quantitative evaluation of myelin injury by electron microscopy revealed significant toxicity of FBAL and FA, at concentrations of 7 and 70 microM, on day 4. However, groups treated with 0.7 microM FBAL and FA, 5-FU (7 microM) and controls exposed to beta-alanine and acetic acid concentrations of 0.7, 7 and 70 microM showed no marked injury. We concluded that these anticancer drug metabolites injure myelin fibers directly, resulting in vacuolation due to myelin splitting and destruction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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