Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology

, Volume 83, Issue 5, pp 893–904 | Cite as

Irinotecan induces enterocyte cell death and changes to muc2 and muc4 composition during mucositis in a tumour-bearing DA rat model

  • Daniel ThorpeEmail author
  • Masooma Sultani
  • Andrea Stringer
Original Article


Irinotecan-induced mucositis is a major oncological problem. Goblet cells secrete mucus, protecting the intestinal mucosa, with secretion altered during mucositis. The enteric nervous system is involved in regulating gut motility and secretion. The aim of this study was to determine whether enteric neural cells and goblet cells are altered following irinotecan treatment. Tumour-bearing Dark Agouti rats were administered a single dose of 175 mg/kg of irinotecan intraperitoneally and 0.01 mg/kg atropine subcutaneously. Experimental and untreated control rats were killed at times 6, 24, 48, 72, 96 and 120 h after treatment. Jejunum and colon samples were formalin fixed. Haematoxylin and eosin staining, Alcian Blue–PAS staining, and immunohistochemistry with S-100 antibody (neural cell marker) were carried out. Statistical analyses were carried out using Kruskal–Wallis test with Dunns post test, Mann Whitney U test, and nonlinear regression. Total goblet cells decreased at 72 h compared with controls in the colon (p < 0.05). The percentage of cavitated goblet cells decreased compared to all other time points at 120 h in the colon. The number of S-100-positive cells in the submucosal plexus decreased in the colon (p = 0.0046) and in the myenteric plexus of the jejunum and colon (p = 0.0058 and p = 0.0022, respectively), on comparing treated with control. Enteric ganglia in the myenteric plexus of the jejunum decreased at 24 h and 96 h. Irinotecan-induced mucositis is associated with increases in mucus secretion and enteric neural cell change. These changes may contribute to the pathophysiology of mucositis through the dysregulation of neural signalling.


Mucositis Chemotherapy Enteric nervous system Mucus 



This study was funded by NHMRC funding (1016696).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Dr. Daniel Thorpe declares that he has no conflict of interest, Ms. Masooma Sultani declares that she has no conflict of interest, and Dr. Andrea Stringer declares that she has no conflict of interest. Furthermore, all applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Pharmacy and Medical SciencesUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.School of Medical SciencesAdelaide UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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