Evaluation of the neurotoxic activity of typical and atypical neuroleptics: Relevance to iatrogenic extrapyramidal symptoms

Irit Gil-Ad, Biana Shtaif, Roni Shiloh, Abraham Weizman

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Typical neuroleptic therapy often results in extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) and tardive dyskinesia (TD). Recent reports reveal neurotoxic activity in some neuroleptics. We hypothesized that neurotoxicity might be implicated in EPS. This study aims to evaluate the neurotoxic activity of typical and atypical neuroleptics and to determine the possible role of neurotoxicity in neuroleptic-induced EPS. Perphenazine, haloperidol, clozapine, sulpiride, and risperidone (10-100 μM) were administered, either alone or combined with dopamine, to primary mouse neuronal or intact brain culture and to a human neuroblastoma (NB) cell line (SK-N-SH). Cell viability (measured by neutral red and alamar blue), DNA fragmentation (flow cytometry-NB) were determined. Neuroblastoma: perphenazine, clozapine, and haloperidol (100 μM) decreased viability by 87, 43, and 34% respectively. Sulpiride and risperidone were not toxic. At 10 μM, toxicity decreased markedly. Dopamine (125 μM) potentiated the perphenazine-induced toxicity. Flow cytometry of NB cells treated with perphenazine (2.5-40 μM) showed an increase (perphenazine 20 μM, 40 μM, 48 h) in fragmented DNA (74.7% and 95.0% vs. 8.7% in controls). Lower concentrations increased the G1 phase and decreased S phase in the cell cycle. In primary neurons, perphenazine, haloperidol, and clozapine, but not risperidone and sulpiride, induced a significant neurotoxic effect, which, in intact brain culture, was absent (haloperidol and clozapine) or lowered (perphenazine). Dopamine (0.5 mM) did not modify the effect of the drugs in the primary cultures. Neuroleptics possess differential neurotoxic activity with higher sensitivity of neoplasm tissue (NB compared to primary cultures). The order of toxicity was perphenazine > haloperidol = clozapine; sulpiride and risperidone were not toxic. Neurotoxicity is independent of dopamine and is associated with cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. With the exception of clozapine, neurotoxicity seems relevant to neuroleptic-induced EPS and TD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number368402
Pages (from-to)705-716
Number of pages12
JournalCellular and Molecular Neurobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001


  • Apoptosis
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Neuroleptics
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Primary neuronal culture


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