Mechanisms and environmental factors that underlying the intensification of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy)-induced serotonin syndrome in rats.

PMID 25300903


Illicit use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy) may cause a mild or severe form of the serotonin syndrome. The syndrome intensity is not just influenced by drug doses but also by environmental factors. Warm environmental temperatures and physical activity are features of raves. The purpose of this study was to assess how these two factors can potentially intensify the syndrome. Rats were administered MDMA at doses of 0.3, 1, or 3 mg/kg and examined in the absence or presence of warm temperature and physical activity. The syndrome intensity was estimated by visual scoring for behavioral syndrome and also instrumentally measuring changes in symptoms of the syndrome. Our results showed that MDMA at 3 mg/kg, but not 0.3 or 1 mg/kg, caused a mild serotonin syndrome in rats. Each environmental factor alone moderately intensified the syndrome. When the two factors were combined, the intensification became more severe than each factor alone highlighting a synergistic effect. This intensification was blocked by the 5-HT2A receptor antagonist M100907, competitive N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor antagonist CGS19755, autonomic ganglionic blocker hexamethonium, and the benzodiazepine-GABAA receptor agonist midazolam but not by the 5-HT1A receptor antagonist WAY100635 or nicotinic receptor antagonist methyllycaconitine. Our data suggest that, in the absence of environmental factors, the MDMA-induced syndrome is mainly mediated through the serotonergic transmission (5-hydroxytryptamine (5HT)-dependent mechanism) and therefore is relatively mild. Warm temperature and physical activity facilitate serotonergic and other neural systems such as glutamatergic and autonomic transmissions, resulting in intensification of the syndrome (non-5HT mechanisms).

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