Analysis of Ecstasy (MDMA)-induced
transcriptional responses in the rat cortex

Thiriet N, Ladenheim B, McCoy MT, Cadet JL.
Molecular Neuropsychiatry Section,
NIDA/NIH, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
FASEB J 2002 Dec 1;16(14):1887-1894


3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) is a popular drug of abuse. MDMA is pharmacologically classified as an entactogen because of its affinities to classical hallucinogens and stimulants. Oral ingestion of a single dose of the drug is associated with euphoria, elevated self-confidence, and heightened sensory awareness in humans. Evidence for neurotoxicity in the human serotonin (5-HT) system has been provided. In rats, a single injection of MDMA induces hyperthermia and formation of reactive oxygen species. These effects may cause MDMA-associated, long-term 5-HT depletion, with the cortex being quite sensitive to the biochemical effects of MDMA. It has been suggested that these MDMA effects may be associated with molecular changes in this brain region. To test these ideas, we have made use of the cDNA array analysis, which can provide a more global view of the molecular changes secondary to MDMA injections. Our results show that the genes regulated by MDMA encode proteins that belong to signaling pathways, transcription regulators, or xenobiotic metabolism. Our observations indicate that cortical cells respond to the acute administration of MDMA by modulating transcription of several genes that might lead to long-term changes in the brain.

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