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The Local Anesthetic Properties and Toxicity of Saxitonin Homologues for Rat Sciatic Nerve Block In Vivo
  1. Daniel S. Kohane, M.D., Ph.D.,
  2. Nu T. Lu, B.A.,
  3. Arman C. Gökgöl-Kline,
  4. Maria Shubina, M.S.,
  5. Yu Kuang,
  6. Sherwood Hall, Ph.D.,
  7. Gary R. Strichartz, Ph.D. and
  8. Charles B. Berde, M.D., Ph.D.
  1. From the Department of Anesthesia, Children's Hospital (D.S.K., N.T.L., A.C.G.-K., C.B.B.), Boston, Massachusetts; Harvard School of Public Health (M.S.), Boston, Massachusetts; the Department of Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (D.S.K., Y.K.), Cambridge, Massachusetts; Washington Seafood Laboratory Branch, Office of Seafood, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (S.H.), Washington, DC; the Department of Anesthesia and Pharmacology, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School (G.R.S.), Boston, Massachusetts; the Departments of Anesthesia (C.B.B.) and Pediatrics (D.S.K., C.B.B), Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; and the Department of Pediatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts (D.S.K.).
  1. Reprint requests: Charles B. Berde, M.D., Ph.D., Department of Anesthesia, Children's Hospital, 333 Longwood Ave, Room 555, Boston, MA 02115.


Background and Objectives Saxitoxin and its homologues are naturally occurring compounds that block the sodium channel with high potency. They have the potential for providing prolonged duration local anesthesia when coinjected with vasoconstrictors or conventional local anesthetics and are devoid of local neurotoxicity. Here, we compare sciatic nerve block with saxitoxin to those with neosaxitoxin, decarbamoyl saxitoxin, and tetrodotoxin (TTX), in a search for even safer compounds.

Methods Rats received percutaneous sciatic nerve block with toxins. The compounds were compared in terms of lethality, onset and duration of action for thermal analgesia (hot-plate testing), and motor block (weight-bearing). Data were expressed as medians with 25th and 75th percentiles, and median effective concentrations were determined.

Results The median concentrations at which analgesia of 60 minutes duration was achieved were neosaxitoxin, 34 ± 2 μmol/L; saxitoxin, 58 ± 3 μmol/L; TTX, 92 ± 5 μmol/L; and decarbamoyl saxitoxin, 268 ± 8 μmol/L. Similar trends were observed for other measures of effectiveness (block duration of 90 minutes, maximal block), and for lethality so that the therapeutic indices were similar. No toxin had a marked predominance of sensory or motor block. The potency of TTX was intermediate between those of the saxitoxins, and its therapeutic index was slightly better. No difference was observed in time to onset of nerve blockade among the toxins.

Conclusions Substitutions on the saxitoxin nucleus result in large differences in incidence and duration of block, and toxicity. The therapeutic indices of the saxitoxins are similar; that of TTX is slightly better.

  • ED50
  • LD50
  • Local anesthetic
  • Peripheral nerve
  • Saxitoxin
  • Sciatic
  • Tetrodotoxin

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  • All experiments were performed at Children's Hospital, Boston, MA. Supported by grants from the CHMC Anesthesia Foundation and the Anesthesia Pain Research Endowment Fund, and National Institutes of Health Grant No. GM 35647.