Melatonin limits paclitaxel-induced mitochondrial dysfunction in vitro and protects against paclitaxel-induced neuropathic pain in the rat

Helen F. Galley (Lead / Corresponding author), Barry McCormick, Kirsten L. Wilson, Damon A. Lowes, Lesley Colvin, Carole Torsney (Lead / Corresponding author)

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62 Citations (Scopus)
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Chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain is a debilitating and common side effect of cancer treatment. Mitochondrial dysfunction associated with oxidative stress in peripheral nerves has been implicated in the underlying mechanism. We investigated the potential of melatonin, a potent antioxidant that preferentially acts within mitochondria, to reduce mitochondrial damage and neuropathic pain resulting from the chemotherapeutic drug paclitaxel. In vitro, paclitaxel caused a 50% reduction of mitochondrial membrane potential and metabolic rate, independent of concentration (20-100μM). Mitochondrial volume was increased dose-dependently by paclitaxel (200% increase at 100μM). These effects were prevented by co-treatment with 1μM melatonin. Paclitaxel cytotoxicity against cancer cells was not affected by co-exposure to 1μM melatonin of either the breast cancer cell line MCF-7, or the ovarian carcinoma cell line A2780. In a rat model of paclitaxel-induced painful peripheral neuropathy, pre-treatment with oral melatonin (5/10/50mg/kg), given as a daily bolus dose, was protective, dose-dependently limiting development of mechanical hypersensitivity (19/43/47% difference from paclitaxel control, respectively). Melatonin (10mg/kg/day) was similarly effective when administered continuously in drinking water (39% difference). Melatonin also reduced paclitaxel-induced elevated 8-isoprostane F2 α levels in peripheral nerves (by 22% in sciatic; 41% in saphenous) and limited paclitaxel-induced reduction of C fibre activity-dependent slowing (by 64%). Notably melatonin limited the development of mechanical hypersensitivity in both male and female animals (by 50/41%, respectively) and an additive effect was found when melatonin was given with the current treatment, duloxetine (75/62% difference, respectively). Melatonin is therefore a potential treatment to limit the development of painful neuropathy resulting from chemotherapy treatment. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12444
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pineal Research
Issue number4
Early online date22 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Journal Article
  • antioxidant
  • chemotherapy
  • melatonin
  • mitochondria
  • neuropathic pain
  • oxidative stress
  • Paclitaxel


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