British journal of pharmacology

Pro-oxidant effects of Ecstasy and its metabolites in mouse brain synaptosomes.

PMID 21506960


3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or 'Ecstasy') is a worldwide major drug of abuse known to elicit neurotoxic effects. The mechanisms underlying the neurotoxic effects of MDMA are not clear at present, but the metabolism of dopamine and 5-HT by monoamine oxidase (MAO), as well as the hepatic biotransformation of MDMA into pro-oxidant reactive metabolites is thought to contribute to its adverse effects. Using mouse brain synaptosomes, we evaluated the pro-oxidant effects of MDMA and its metabolites, α-methyldopamine (α-MeDA), N-methyl-α-methyldopamine (N-Me-α-MeDA) and 5-(glutathion-S-yl)-α-methyldopamine [5-(GSH)-α-MeDA], as well as those of 5-HT, dopamine, l-DOPA and 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC). 5-HT, dopamine, l-DOPA, DOPAC and MDMA metabolites α-MeDA, N-Me-α-MeDA and 5-(GSH)-α-MeDA, concentration- and time-dependently increased H(2) O(2 ) production, which was significantly reduced by the antioxidants N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC), ascorbic acid and melatonin. From experiments with MAO inhibitors, it was observed that H(2) O(2) generation induced by 5-HT was totally dependent on MAO-related metabolism, while for dopamine, it was a minor pathway. The MDMA metabolites, dopamine, l-DOPA and DOPAC concentration-dependently increased quinoproteins formation and, like 5-HT, altered the synaptosomal glutathione status. Finally, none of the compounds modified the number of polarized mitochondria in the synaptosomal preparations, and the compounds' pro-oxidant effects were unaffected by prior mitochondrial depolarization, excluding a significant role for mitochondrial-dependent mechanisms of toxicity in this experimental model. MDMA metabolites along with high levels of monoamine neurotransmitters can be major effectors of neurotoxicity induced by Ecstasy.

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