5-Fluorouracil and levamisole exacerbate demyelination in susceptible mice infected with Theiler's virus

C. F. Lucchinetti, D. W. Kimmel, K. Pavelko, M. Rodriguez

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18 Scopus citations


A multifocal inflammatory leukoencephalopathy is associated with the administration of 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), a pyrimidine analogue, and levamisole (LE), an immunomodulator, in patients receiving adjuvant therapy for colon cancer. Cerebral biopsy demonstrated features indistinguishable from multiple sclerosis. We tested whether administration of these agents directly resulted in inflammatory demyelination in mice or whether they exacerbated demyelination in a host predisposed to myelin injury. We used mice intracerebrally infected with Theiler's murine encephalomyelitis virus (TMEV) which serves as an excellent model for multiple sclerosis. Varying dosages of 5-FU (240 μg-2.4 mg) and LE (40 μg-1 mg) were administered alone or in combination on a fixed schedule to 52 normal SJL mice and 61 Theiler's virus-infected mice (51 SJL/J mice susceptible to demyelination; 10 C57BL10 mice resistant to demyelination). Controls included 6 noninfected SJL and 26 infected mice (16 susceptible; 10 resistant) treated with phosphate-buffered saline (PBS). Inflammation or demyelination was not detected in brains or spinal cords of noninfected SJL mice treated with 5-FU and/or LE. TMEV- susceptible SJL mice treated with LE alone or in combination with 5-FU demonstrated more extensive inflammation and demyelination at Day 45 than mice treated with PBS. Demyelination was accelerated in infected animals treated with these agents at 45 days but at 70 days a significant difference in extent of demyelination was no longer appreciated between treatment and control groups. Treatment with 5-FU and LE did not convert normally resistant TMEV-infected C57BL/10 mice to demyelination. These experiments support the hypothesis that 5-FU and LE may exacerbate inflammatory demyelination in a susceptible host.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-129
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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