Gentamicin-induced ototoxicity and nephrotoxicity vary with circadian time of treatment and entail separate mechanisms

Mary A. Blunston, Al Yonovitz, Erica L. Woodahl, Michael H. Smolensky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The aminoglycoside antibiotic gentamicin can cause both ototoxicity and nephrotoxicity, the severity of which varies with circadian time of daily treatment. However, it is not yet resolved if such drug-induced adverse effects are independent or interdependent phenomena. Two groups of 9 female Sprague-Dawley rats (200-250 g), each housed separately and entrained to a 12 h light (06:00-18:00 h) - 12 h dark cycle, received a daily subcutaneous injection of 100 mg/kg gentamicin. One group was treated at the beginning of the activity span, 2 Hours After Lights On (HALO), and the other at the beginning of the rest span, 14 HALO. Global toxicity was gauged by both body weight loss relative to the pre-treatment baseline and number of deaths. Ototoxicity, i.e., hearing loss, was assessed by changes in auditory brainstem response (ABR) for pure tone stimuli of 8, 16, 24, and 32 kHz before and after 2 and 4 weeks of gentamicin treatment. Renal toxicity was evaluated by changes in urinary N-acetyl-β-glucosaminidase (NAG)/creatinine (CR) concentration ratio before and after each week of treatment. In a complementary substudy of separate but comparable 2 and 14 HALO groups of rats, blood samples were obtained before and 30, 60, 120, and 240 min post-subcutaneous injection of 100 mg/kg gentamicin. Number of animal deaths was greater in the 2 (4 deaths) than 14 HALO (1 death) group, mirroring more severe initial (first two weeks of treatment) body weight losses from baseline, being more than 2-fold greater in animals of the 2 than 14 HALO group. Ototoxicity progressively worsened during the treatment; although, the extent of hearing loss varied according to circadian time of treatment across all frequencies (p < 0.05), particularly the 24 and 32 kHz ones (both p < 0.005), both at the 2 and 4 week assessments. At 32 kHz after 4 weeks of gentamicin dosing, the 2 HALO group showed an average 42 dB hearing loss, while the 14 HALO group exhibited only an average 10 dB loss. ABR response latencies were longer for the 2 than 14 HALO rats. The time course of nephrotoxicity differed from that of ototoxicity. The mean urinary NAG/CR ratio peaked after the first week of treatment, averaging 13.64-fold greater than baseline for the 2 HALO-treated animals compared to 7.38-fold greater than baseline for the 14 HALO-treated ones. Ratio values declined thereafter; although, even after the second week of dosing, they remained greater in the 2 than 14 HALO group (averaging 8.15-fold greater and 2.23-fold greater than baseline, respectively). Pharmacokinetic analysis of the blood gentamicin values revealed slower clearance, on average by ∼25% (p < 0.001), in the rats of the 14 than 2 HALO group (x ± S.E.: 3.22 ± 0.49 and 4.53 ± 0.63 mL/min/kg, respectively). The study findings indicate robust difference of the time course in rats of both treatment groups of gentamicin-induced ototoxicity and nephrotoxicity, supporting the hypothesis these organ toxicities are independent of one another, and further suggest the observed treatment-time differences in gentamicin adverse effects may be more dependent on local cell, tissue, or organ circadian (chrono) pharmacodynamic than (chrono) pharmacokinetic mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1223-1232
Number of pages10
JournalChronobiology International
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 21 2015


  • Aminogylcosides
  • chronopharmacology
  • chronotoxicity
  • circadian rhythm
  • gentamicin
  • nephrotoxicity
  • ototoxicity


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