Regular articleNeurochemical and neurohistological alterations in the rat and monkey produced by orally administered methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)☆
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AbstractMDMA is an amphetamine analog prescribed by some health professionals in the field of psychotherapy and used as a recreational drug by the general public. In recent reports, investigators have suggested that MDMA produces acute neurotoxicity when administered by subcutaneous injection. In order to determine if MDMA produces lasting neurochemical alterations after oral administration, groups of six rats (adult male Sprague-Dawley) were dosed by gavage with either 40 or 80 mg/kg of MDMA or saline vehicle once every 12 hr for 4 days. These rats were terminated 2 weeks after the first dose along with an additional group of rats (80 mg/kg) terminated 4 weeks after the first dose. Brain regions including the hippocampus (H), caudate nucleus (CN), hypothalamus (HY), frontal cortex (FC), and brain stem (BS) were analyzed by HPLC with electrochemical detection for concentrations of dopamine (DA), dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), homovanillic acid (HVA), serotonin (5-HT), 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), and norepinephrine (NE). In the CN, 40 mg/kg MDMA produced no change in DA, DOPAC, or HVA, but a 50–60% decrease in 5-HT and 5-HIAA concentrations was observed at 2 weeks. Similar effects were observed at 80 mg/kg at both 2 weeks and 4 weeks. A temporary decrease was also seen in DA (21%) and in HVA (34%) 2 weeks but not 4 weeks after the 80 mg/kg dose regimen. In the H, MDMA (40 or 80 mg/kg) produced no change in NE, but a 50–60% decrease was seen in 5-HT and 5-HIAA concentrations at 2 weeks. Concentrations of 5-HT and 5-HIAA were significantly decreased in the HY and FC by all MDMA treatments, but DA and DOPAC concentrations were not altered as compared to vehicle controls. BS was least affected by treatment with no change in DA, DOPAC, or 5-HIAA concentrations and only a slight decrease in 5-HT (19–33%) concentrations at 2 weeks but not at 4 weeks. To determine the sensitivity of the nonhuman primate to MDMA, a total of nine rhesus monkeys were dosed with vehicle or 5 or 10 mg/kg MDMA (n = 3) by gastric intubation twice per day for 4 days. One month after MDMA dosing, a dose-related reduction from vehicle control values for 5-HT and 5-HIAA was observed. These results indicate that the monkey may be more sensitive than the rat to the persistent serotonergic neurotoxicity of MDMA. Histological assessment in the rat with a stain specific for degenerating fibers and terminals 18 hr after a single treatment with MDMA (40 and 80 mg/kg, po) indicated a significant enhancement of the density of silver-impregnated terminals in the CN as compared to vehicle controls. Selective reductions in brain 5-HT and 5-HIAA concentrations, along with histologically observed neuronal degeneration, suggest that orally administered MDMA produces selective destruction of serotonergic nerve terminals.

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