Fluoxetine reverses the memory impairment and reduction in proliferation and survival of hippocampal cells caused by methotrexate chemotherapy.

L Lyons, M ElBeltagy, J Umka, R Markwick, C Startin, G Bennett, P Wigmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale: Adjuvant cancer chemotherapy can cause long-lasting, cognitive deficits. It is postulated that these impairments are due to these drugs targeting neural precursors within the adult hippocampus, the loss of which has been associated with memory impairment.
Objectives: The present study investigates the effects of the chemotherapy, methotrexate (MTX) on spatial working memory and the proliferation and survival of the neural precursors involved in hippocampal neurogenesis, and the possible neuroprotective properties of the antidepressant fluoxetine.
Methods: Male Lister hooded rats were administered MTX (75 mg/kg, two i.v. doses a week apart) followed by leucovorin rescue (i.p. 18 h after MTX at 6 mg/kg and at 26, 42 and 50 h at 3 mg/kg) and/or fluoxetine (10 mg/kg/day in drinking water for 40 days). Memory was tested using the novel location recognition (NLR) test. Using markers, cell proliferation (Ki67) and survival (bromodeoxyuridine/BrdU), in the dentate gyrus were quantified.
Results: MTX-treated rats showed a cognitive deficit in the NLR task compared with the vehicle and fluoxetine-treated groups. Cognitive ability was restored in the group receiving both MTX and fluoxetine. MTX reduced both the number of proliferating cells in the SGZ and their survival. This was prevented by the co-administration of fluoxetine, which alone increased cell numbers.
Conclusions: These results demonstrate that MTX induces an impairment in spatial working memory and has a negative long-term effect on hippocampal neurogenesis, which is counteracted by the co-administration of fluoxetine. If translatable to patients, this finding has the potential to prevent the chemotherapy-induced cognitive deficits experienced by many cancer survivors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105–115
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2010

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