Neurotoxicity of the pyrimidine synthesis inhibitor N‐phosphonoacetyl‐L‐aspartate

R. G. Wiley, R. J. Gralla, E. S. Casper, N. Kemeny

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5 Scopus citations


PALA (N‐phosphonoacetyl‐L‐aspartate) impairs de novo pyrimidine biosynthesis by inhibiting the enzyme aspartate transcarbamylase. During cancer chemotherapy trials the drug was given by weekly intravenous infusion. Seizures developed in 9 (11%) of the first 80 patients to receive a total dose of 9 gm/m2 or more. Seven of the affected patients had structural brain lesions; they developed seizures at a lower total dose (median of 16.4 gm/m2) than the 2 patients without clinically detectable brain lesions (115 to 130 gm/m2). Reversible encephalopathy was observed in 6 (7.5%) additional patients without clinically detectable cause other than PALA. Both seizures and encephalopathy began after the second dose of PALA or later. Experiments in rats demonstrated similar delayed‐onset seizures after two or three combined systemic and intracerebral doses of PALA at 4‐day intervals. Concurrent administration of uridine or carbamyl aspartate prevented the development of seizures in rats, indicating that pyrimidine starvation of the central nervous system was responsible for PALA neurotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-183
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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