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Article  May 21, 2019

Increased stress associated with head-out plethysmography testing can exacerbate respiratory effects and lead to mortality in rats

SRI Authors Jon C. Mirsalis



Lynch JJ 3rd, Rossignol E, Moehrle JJ, et al. Increased stress associated with head-out plethysmography testing can exacerbate respiratory effects and lead to mortality in rats. J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods. 2019;99:106580. doi:10.1016/j.vascn.2019.106580


Introduction: DSM421, a dihydroorotate dehydrogenase inhibitor, was in preclinical development as a potential treatment option for malaria. When tested in a core battery of safety pharmacology assays, DSM421 did not produce any effects at oral doses up to 750 mg/kg in an Irwin test in rats, but a respiratory study in rats using head-out plethysmography resulted in substantial changes in respiratory function as well as moribundity and mortality at that and lower doses. An investigation was performed to determine the source of this discrepancy.

Methods: Potential testing errors, differences in types of plethysmography testing chambers, effects on stress indicators, and off-target activity were investigated.

Results: Respiratory changes and toxicity (resulting in euthanasia in extremis) were confirmed in a repeat, head-out plethysmography test, but the effects of DSM421 were much less severe overall when the rats were tested in whole-body chambers. Additionally, at the end of the 5-h post-dosing respiratory monitoring periods, levels of stress-related hormones (particularly corticosterone) were higher overall in the head-out, than in the whole-body, tested rats. Furthermore, DSM421 was found to produce changes in cardiovascular function in unrestrained rats, and it was shown to have off-target binding affinity at the adenosine A3 receptor (which is associated with bronchoconstriction).

Discussion: The generalized stress inherent to head-out plethysmography testing exacerbated the respiratory effects of DSM421 and was possibly compounded by DSM421’s cardiovascular effects, thus artifactually resulting in moribundity and mortality in rats. Care should be taken when choosing whether to use head-out versus whole-body plethysmography chambers during respiratory function testing in animals.

Keywords: Adenosine A(3) receptor; Cardiovascular; DSM421; Methods; Plethysmography; Rat; Respiratory; Restraint; Safety pharmacology; Stress.

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