Bert P.C. Melchers

Utrecht University, Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands

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Publications (24)82.41 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Poisoning with the potent nerve agent soman produces a cascade of central nervous system (CNS) effects characterized by severe convulsions and eventually death. In animals that survive a soman intoxication, lesions in the amygdala, piriform cortex, hippocampus and thalamus can be observed. In order to examine the mechanisms involved in the effects of soman and to evaluate possible curative interventions, a series of behavioural, electrophysiological and neuropathological experiments were carried out in the guinea pig using the NMDA antagonist N-[1-(2-thienyl)cyclohexyl] piperidine (TCP) in conjunction with atropine and pyridostigmine. The NMDA antagonist TCP appeared to be very effective in the treatment of casualties who suffered from soman-induced seizures for 30 min: Seizures were arrested within minutes after the TCP injection, confirmed by quantitative electroencephalogram (EEG), after fast Fourier analysis. Three hours after TCP the quantitative EEGs were completely normal in all frequency bands and remained normal during the entire 3-week intoxication period. The power shift to the lower (delta) frequency bands, indicative for neuropathology and found in control animals intoxicated only by soman, was not observed in the soman–TCP group. The gross neuropathology found in soman control animals within 48 h after soman was prevented in soman–TCP animals and was still absent in 3-week survivors. Instead, ultrastructural changes were observed, indicative of defense mechanisms of the cell against toxic circumstances. Twenty-four hours after soman, soman–TCP animals were able to perform in the shuttle box and Morris water maze. The beneficial effects of TCP on the performance in these tests during the 3-week intoxication period were very impressive, notwithstanding (minor) deficits in memory and learning. The increase in excitability after TCP was confirmed by an increase in the acoustic startle response. Taken together, these results confirmed the involvement of NMDA receptors in the maintenance of soman-induced seizures and the development of brain damage. They underline the current hypothesis that cholinergic mechanisms are responsible for eliciting seizure activity after soman and that, most likely, the subsequent recruitment of other excitatory neurotransmitters and loss of inhibitory control are responsible for the maintenance of seizures and the development of subsequent brain damage. Copyright
    No preview · Article · Jan 2002 · Journal of Applied Toxicology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A number of neurobehavioral methods have been developed to test behavior in marmoset monkeys. These test systems are (1) the bungalow test, which quantifies spontaneous explorative behavior, (2) the hand-eye coordination test, which tests a learned task of coordinated motor behavior, and (3) the fear-potentiated startle response, which tests and quantifies pathological anxiety manifested by a response of fright. The test systems are extensively discussed, and the value of these test systems is exemplified by applying them to neurological disorders to register disease activity and drug efficacy.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2000 · Behavior research methods, instruments, & computers: a journal of the Psychonomic Society, Inc
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The efficacy of the subchronically administered cholinesterase-inhibitor physostigmine (PHY) (0.025 mg/kg/h) either with or without the muscarinergic receptor antagonist scopolamine (SCO) (0.018 mg/kg/h) in counteracting soman-induced lethality and incapacitation were determined in guinea pigs. This was tested in animals that either received atropine sulphate (AS, 17.4 mg/kg IM) or no postintoxication therapy. Behavioral and neurophysiological readout systems were used to measure postintoxication incapacitation. Only the pretreatment with PHY alone did not offer any protection against 2× LD50 soman intoxication. Animals that received the complete treatment (PHY + SCO + AS) did not show any abberations in the performance of learned behavior. The use of AS after soman intoxication resulted in an increase of the startle response, whereas the addition of SCO to the pretreatment led to a more persistent duration of the effect in time. In case one has to rely completely on the pretreatment, the addition of SCO to PHY is life-saving. However, some postintoxication incapacitation is still present. Therefore, the pretreatment regime may perhaps further be improved by the addition of a nicotinic antagonist.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2000 · Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Subchronic pretreatment with physostigmine (PHY) (0.0125 mg/kg/h) leading to a blood acetylcholinesterase inhibition of about 30% caused no side effects when applied to marmoset monkeys. This was evident on behavioral parameters and on EEG and cortical visual evoked response. Furthermore, this treatment regime, followed by atropine as postintoxication therapy, protected the marmosets against lethality after a 2 x LD50 dose of soman with negligible postintoxication incapacitation. These findings suggest that a symptom-free pretreatment with subchronic PHY could protect man sufficiently against severe soman intoxication.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2000 · Toxicological Sciences
  • No preview · Article · Jan 2000 · Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The behavioral and neurophysiological effects of the subchronically administered cholinesterase-inhibitor physostigmine (PHY) (0.025 mg/kg/h) either with or without the muscarinergic antagonist scopolamine (SCO) (0.018 mg/kg/h) were determined in guinea pigs. In contrast to a single injection of PHY, subchronic application by osmotic minipumps of PHY, even without SCO, caused no behavioral or neurophysiological side effects. Also, the efficacy of such a pretreatment in counteracting soman-induced lethality and apparent symptoms of intoxication were determined. After subchronically administered PHY or PHY + SCO, the treated animals were protected against a 3 × LD50 dose of soman.
    No preview · Article · May 1998 · Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
  • I H Philippens · B Olivier · B.P.C. Melchers
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The effects of the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor physostigmine (PHY) on the auditory startle reflex in guinea pigs were studied. The dose-response curve of PHY appeared bell shaped, with a maximum effect dose of 0.3 mg/kg. In addition, PHY altered the shape of the startle response. The muscarinic antagonist scopolamine (SCO) increased the startle at PHY doses above 0.3 mg/kg without affecting the PHY-induced shape of the response. The decreasing part of the startle due to PHY could be mimicked by the cholinesterase inhibitor soman in combination with 0.3 mg/kg PHY. It appeared that the decreasing part of the dose-response curve at higher dose levels is caused by the cholinesterase inhibitory action of PHY and, in view of the SCO effect, is mediated by muscarinergic receptors. The increasing part of the curve is probably caused by an agonistic action of PHY on neuronal nicotinergic receptors, because the antagonist mecamylamine (20 mg/kg) antagonized the effects of 0.3 mg/kg PHY both on the deflection and shape of the startle.
    No preview · Article · Jan 1998 · Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
  • R W Busker · J J Zijlstra · I H Philippens · B Groen · B.P.C. Melchers
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The therapeutic efficacy of single or repeated doses of HI-6, together with atropine, against soman poisoning were compared both in guinea pigs and in marmoset monkeys. In addition, the pharmacokinetics of HI-6 were determined after single or repeated injections. Both single and repeated HI-6 injections protected guinea pigs effectively against 2 x LD50 soman. The plasma levels of HI-6 after single HI-6 injection fitted a one-compartment elimination model. The plasma levels of HI-6 following repeated injections were in accordance with those predicted using the data obtained after single HI-6 injection. No evidence was found for any disturbance of the HI-6 elimination in guinea pigs following soman intoxication. Marmosets were intoxicated with 2 x LD50 soman (s.c.), followed after 1 min by i.m. injections of atropine and HI-6. One and 2 h later, four animals received additional HI-6 injections. The pharmacokinetics of HI-6 in plasma, after single and repeated HI-6 injections were similar to those found in the guinea pig. Furthermore, repeated HI-6 injections protected effectively against soman: four out of four animals survived, in fair condition. In contrast, only one out of four animals receiving single HI-6-treatment fully recovered within a few days. Two animals died, the fourth animal survived, but had to be euthanized 3 weeks after intoxication.
    No preview · Article · Oct 1996 · Toxicology
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To prevent incapacitation following nerve agent intoxications, it is proposed to replace pyridostigmine by the centrally active carbamate physostigmine (PHY). Behavioral and neurophysiological effects of PHY were determined and whether these effects would be counteracted by scopolamine. In addition, we compared them with the effects of another reversible cholinesterase (ChE) inhibitor ethyl-p-nitrophenylphosphoramidate (PNF). At similar levels of blood AChE inhibition, PHY caused a larger shuttlebox performance decrement than PNF, which was antagonized by scopolamine (0.1 mg/kg). SCO enhanced the PHY-induced increase of the auditory startle response, whereas PNF, with or without scopolamine, had no effect. In the EEG, PHY led to a power increase at the theta2-alphal band, also found after PNF, and at the thetal band. SCO antagonized all EEG effects, but not the effects of PHY on visual evoked responses, in contrast to those of PNF. Based on the different effects of both inhibitors, it is suggested that at relevant doses several PHY-induced phenomena occur that are unrelated to AChE inhibition.
    No preview · Article · Oct 1996 · Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The increased international concern about the threat of military and terroristic use of nerve agents, prompted us to critically consider the expected value of the currently available oxime treatment of nerve agent poisoning. Although oximes have been designed to reactivate the inhibited acetylcholinesterase (AChE), clinical experience has indicated that they are not always very effective as reactivators and at this very moment none of them can be regarded as a broad-spectrum antidote. In spite of this drawback, oximes are worth further investigating, since recent data derived from soman or tabun lethally intoxicated non-human primates suggest that the oxime HI-6 may exert a pharmacological effect that is not related to reactivation of inhibited AChE, but still leads to survival. This pharmacological effect causes recovery of neuronal transmission in the respiratory centres of the brain and recovery of neuromuscular transmission in the diaphragm. These findings have stimulated research to reveal the pharmacological basis of these effects in order to find drugs which could be more effective and less toxic than the available oximes. Since cholinergic drugs were able to exert this effect, a new concept for further treatment is suggested: maintenance of neuronal transmission in spite of continued AChE-inhibition by pharmacological manipulation of the cholinergic receptor. This should renew interest in the diverse pharmacological effects of oximes to reach a more effective treatment in the future.
    No preview · Article · Feb 1996 · Archive für Toxikologie
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Previous immunocytochemical studies in rats have indicated that striatal dopamine depletion leads to an increase in enkephalin-immunoreactivity and a decrease in substance P-immunoreactivity in the striatum. Similar studies in primates have lead to contradictory results. In the present study changes in tyrosine hydroxylase-, met-enkephalin- and substance P-immunoreactivity were determined in the basal ganglia of 6 common marmosets Callithrix jacchus following dopamine depletion by unilateral intracerebral 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) injections using three different survival times. The non-lesioned side served as an intra-individual control. Tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity was strongly reduced in the entire ipsilateral striatum. Enkephalin-immunoreactivity was increased throughout the striatum. Substance P-immunoreactivity was significantly increased in only one case in the caudate nucleus and in two cases in the putamen, while in other cases either a non-significant increase or decrease was found. Therefore, the results of the present study indicate that in marmosets dopamine has a inhibiting effect on the levels of striatal enkephalin, while its effect on substance P (SP) appears to be absent.
    No preview · Article · Nov 1995 · Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy
  • Bert P.C. Melchers · Ingrid H.C.H.M. Philippens · Otto L. Wolthuis
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The therapeutic efficacy of the oximes HI-6 and HLö-7 (132.5 μmol/kg), in combination with atropine, in soman- or tabunintoxicated guinea pigs was compared, particularly with respect to recovery of shuttlebox performance and electroencephalograms (EEGs). After 1.5 × LD50 soman SC, therapy with HI-6 or HLö-7 resulted in survival of 87.5% of the animals in each group. In both groups postintoxication performance decrements and EEG abnormalities lasted approximately 2 weeks after intoxication. After 3 × LD50 soman all HLö-7-treated animals died within 5 h; 70% of the HI-6-treated animals were still alive after 8 h; however, only 10% survived more than 24 h. After 2 × LD50 tabun 36% of the HI-6-treated animals died; HLö-7 prevented lethality and led to faster recovery of performance and EEG than after HI-6. Even after 7.5 × LD50 tabun, followed by HLö-7, full recovery was reached within 1 week in the surviving animals (82%). In soman-intoxicated guinea pigs HI-6 is therapeutically slightly more effective than HLö-7. HLö-7 is far more effective, under similar conditions, against tabun intoxication than HI-6.
    No preview · Article · Jan 1995 · Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The oximes HI-6, HLö-7, HGG-12, HGG-42 and obidoxime were used in a previously developed rat model to evaluate the therapeutic effects of oximes other than acetylcholinesterase (AChE) reactivation (so-called "non-reactivating effects"). To test this anaesthetized, atropinized and artificially ventilated rats (n = 8 or 16) were poisoned with a three times LD50 dose of the potent AChE-inhibitor crotylsarin (CRS, i.v.). CRS-inhibited rat AChE dealkylates instantaneously, thereby excluding AChE reactivation by the oximes. Five minutes after poisoning the rats were treated (i.v.) with an oxime or saline and 10 min later artificial ventilation was terminated. Survival times were determined. Saline-treated animals died within 15 min. In comparison, treatment with HI-6, HLö-7, HGG-12, HGG-42 or obidoxime resulted in a significant prolongation of survival time. In the groups treated with HLö-7, HI-6 or HGG-12, 12-37% of the animals survived more than 24 h. It was investigated whether differences in therapeutic effectiveness are caused by differences in pharmacokinetics of the oximes. The plasma half-lives of HI-6, HLö-7, HGG-12, HGG-42 and obidoxime amounted to 67, 63, 27, 55 and 179 min, respectively. At doses of 75 or 150 mumol/kg, all oximes could be detected in brain and medulla oblongata in similar amounts (6-10 nmol/g tissue). In vitro, all oximes were effective in restoring failure of neuromuscular transmission (NMT) caused by CRS, albeit with varying potency. All oximes bound with affinities in the micromolar range to rat brain muscarinic receptors.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
    No preview · Article · Feb 1994 · Archive für Toxikologie
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Effects of the oxime HI-6, unrelated to reactivation of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), on field potentials in the dentate gyrus of the rat hippocampus following AChE inhibition, were investigated both in vitro and in vivo. In hippocampal slices, AChE inhibition decreased the perforant path evoked population spike amplitude (PSA). This effect could be prevented by pre-incubation of the slices with atropine (0.1-1 microM) or with the M1 muscarinic receptor antagonist pirenzepine (1 microM). A similar preventive effect was found after pre-incubation with the GABAA antagonist picrotoxin (20 microM), suggesting that the effects of AChE inhibition in vitro may be due to an enhancement of GABAergic inhibitory activity via activation of M1-muscarinic receptors. The effects of AChE inhibition in vivo were variable; both increases and decreases of the PSA were found. Following AChE inhibition, HI-6 increased the PSA dose-dependently, both in the in vivo and in the in vitro hippocampus. At higher oxime doses the perforant path stimulation elicited multiple population spikes. The effects of the oxime were presumably not mediated by an antagonism of cholinergic receptors, since they could not be mimicked with cholinergic antagonists like atropine, mecamylamine or gallamine. Further testing of the nature of the HI-6 effect in hippocampal slices in vitro, using a paired antidromic-orthodromic stimulation protocol, showed that HI-6 may interfere with GABAergic inhibition.
    No preview · Article · Feb 1994 · Archive für Toxikologie
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This mini-review mainly describes a part of the pharmacological research carried out in our laboratory during the past decades, aimed at finding a therapy against intoxication by cholinesterase-inhibiting organophosphates, in particular against the nerve agent soman. In particular soman, because this is one of the nerve agents that consistently appears to be very resistant to treatment. Various experimental approaches are described. Yet, even after all these years of research an adequate (pre)treatment against poisoning by soman is still not available.
    No preview · Article · Feb 1994 · Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It is known that rats poisoned with near-lethal doses of pinacolyl methylphosphonofluoridate (soman) develop brain lesions, particularly when convulsions are induced. When rats were intoxicated with a LD50 of soman and treated immediately thereafter with a combination of low doses of atropine and diazepam (LOW AS/DZ treatment), large decrements in performance of an earlier acquired shuttle-box task were found 6 days after intoxication. In contrast, no such decrements were found in soman-intoxicated animals treated similarly with a combination of high doses of these drugs (HIGH AS/DZ treatment). Surprisingly, surviving LOW AS/DZ animals acquired the same task again at a speed that was almost as fast as before intoxication. Similarly treated animals were examined lightmicroscopically 24 h after intoxication; in LOW-AS/DZ-treated animals, neuropathology was only observed in animals that had exhibited convulsions, whereas in HIGH AS/DZ animals neither convulsions nor brain damage were observed. Power spectra, obtained from electroencephalograms (EEGs) 6 days after intoxication, revealed significant differences between both treatment groups, particularly in the δ-, θ-, and β-frequencies. After the HIGH AS/DZ treatment, a significant increase in δ activity was found compared to control values, suggestive of neuropathology. It is concluded that, in contrast with the LOW AS/DZ combination, HIGH AS/DZ prevents active avoidance deficits, convulsions, and lightmicroscopically detectable neuropathology after soman intoxication. However, the results of EEG measurements suggest that some aberrations may still remain even after the HIGH AS/DZ treatment.
    No preview · Article · Sep 1992 · Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The therapeutic efficacy of the oxime HI-6 against intoxication with the irreversible cholinesterase (ChE) inhibitor soman was tested in marmoset monkeys. Five out of six marmosets, intoxicated with 5 x LD50 soman and treated immediately with diazepam (0.2 iv) and 15 sec later with atropine (0.5 im) and HI-6 (50 im), survived for more than 24 hr. One of these animals died after 4 days. In the HI-6-treated marmosets blood ChE activity was inhibited at a rate slower than that in three animals treated similarly but with saline instead of HI-6. The latter marmosets died within 8 min after soman. HI-6 achieved its plasma peak 5 min after injection and was eliminated with a t1/2 of about 40 min. In a second experiment similarly treated marmosets were euthanized at 5 min (three saline-treated animals) or at 10 min (three HI-6-treated animals) after the soman intoxication to enable the determination of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activities in diaphragm and brain tissue. In addition, in these animals blood AChE and butyrylcholine esterase (BuChE) activities were determined. Low AChE activities were encountered in diaphragms and brains. These levels were not significantly different between saline- and HI-6-treated marmosets. In vitro treatment with HI-6 at 40 min after soman still led to an increase of the AChE activity, which was significant in diaphragm, suggesting that postmortem AChE inhibition had occurred. The ratio of AChE to BuChE in blood was significantly enhanced in HI-6-treated animals, indicating that HI-6 preferentially reactivated AChE. It is concluded that (i) HI-6 is an effective treatment against soman poisoning in marmosets and (ii) AChE reactivation or protection by HI-6 contributed to the survival of the animals.
    No preview · Article · Aug 1992 · Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology
  • Ingrid H.C.H.M. Philippens · Bert P.C. Melchers · Otto L. Wolthuis
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Behavioral training of guinea pigs by conventional methods, such as used for rats and mice, appears difficult. Hence, only a few behavioral experiments with guinea pigs have been described in the literature. An active avoidance technique in an automated two-way shuttlebox is described using sound as a conditioned (CS) and a tactile stimulus (a stream of air ruffling their fur) as an unconditioned (UCS) stimulus. Acquisition is fairly rapid and reproducible. Doses of physostigmine that caused moderate blood acetylcholinesterase inhibition induced dose-dependent performance decrements. These decrements were counteracted by a sign-free dose of scopolamine.
    No preview · Article · Jul 1992 · Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
  • Bert P.C. Melchers · Anton L. Van der Laaken
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neuromuscular transmission shows a significant degree of spontaneous recovery after being impeded by acetylcholinesterase inhibition. Part of this recovery can be ascribed to de novo synthesis of acetylcholinesterase but another part is independent of enzyme activity. To unravel the mechanism underlying this synaptic adaptation to acetylcholinesterase inhibition we have compared a number of electrophysiological parameters in diaphragms taken from animals that were sacrificed within 15 min after a 2 x LD50 dose of the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor diisopropylfluorophosphate and from similarly treated animals killed after being kept alive for 3 h under artificial respiration. We found no differences in the quantal content. There was a significantly smaller degree of endplate potential rundown at tetanic stimulation and the miniature endplate potential amplitude was smaller in the 3-h adapted animals. In addition, the desensitization induced by carbachol appeared to be less in this group. It is likely that these synaptic changes, demonstrating the plasticity of the neuromuscular synapse, are involved in the spontaneous recovery of neuromuscular transmission after acetylcholinesterase inhibition.
    No preview · Article · Dec 1991 · Brain Research
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Experiments were performed to elucidate the mechanism of action by which the oxime HI-6 causes a recovery of neuromuscular function after oxime-resistant inhibition of acetylcholinesterase by the organophosphate S27. In the presence of HI-6 (1-3 mM), the ability of isolated rat diaphragm muscle strips to sustain tetanic contractions after inhibition by S27 was markedly improved, as was the electrophysiological response to indirect tetanic stimulation. At lower concentrations (0-1 mM), HI-6 reduced the amplitude of the miniature endplate potentials and their decay time constant in a dose-dependent manner without having any effect on the resting membrane potential. In addition, HI-6 dose dependently increased the quantal content. It is likely that these post- and presynaptic effects of HI-6 are responsible for the improvement of muscle contractions after inhibition of acetylcholinesterase and they could well be of value in the therapy of organophosphate poisoning.
    No preview · Article · Sep 1991 · European Journal of Pharmacology