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A dose-response study of ibogaine-induced neuropathology in the rat cerebellum. Xu Z,1 Chang LW,1,2 Slikker W Jr,2,3 Ali SF,2,3 Rountree RL,3 Scallet AC.2,3

1Department of Pathology and 2Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas 72205. 3Division of Neurotoxology, National Center for Toxicological Research, Jefferson, Arkansas 72079

Toxicol Sci Sep;57(1):95-101, 2000

Abstract: Ibogaine (IBO) is an indole alkaloid from the West African shrub, Tabernanthe iboga. It is structurally related to harmaline, and both these compounds are rigid analogs of melatonin. IBO has both psychoactive and stimulant properties. In single-blind trials with humans, it ameliorated withdrawal symptoms and interrupted the addiction process. However, IBO also produced neurodegeneration of Purkinje cells and gliosis of Bergmann astrocytes in the cerebella of rats given even a single dose (100 mg/kg, ip). Here, we treated rats (n = 6 per group) with either a single ip injection of saline or with 25 mg/kg, 50 mg/kg, 75 mg/kg, or 100 mg/kg of IBO. As biomarkers of cerebellar neurotoxicity, we specifically labeled degenerating neurons and axons with silver, astrocytes with antisera to glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), and Purkinje neurons with antisera to calbindin. All rats of the 100-mg/kg group showed the same pattern of cerebellar damage previously described: multiple bands of degenerating Purkinje neurons. All rats of the 75-mg/ kg group had neurodegeneration similar to the 100-mg/kg group, but the bands appeared to be narrower. Only 2 of 6 rats that received 50 mg/kg were affected; despite few degenerating neuronal perikarya, cerebella from these rats did contain patches of astrocytosis similar to those observed with 75 or 100 mg/kg IBO. These observations affirm the usefulness of GFAP immunohistochemistry as a sensitive biomarker of neurotoxicity. None of the sections from the 25-mg/kg rats, however stained, were distinguishable from saline controls, indicating that this dose level may be considered as a no-observable-adverse-effect level (NOAEL).


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