MDMA (ecstasy) effects on cultured serotonergic neurons: evidence for Ca2(+)-dependent toxicity linked to release
Azmitia EC, Murphy RB, Whitaker-Azmitia PM.
Department of Biology,
New York University, NY 10003.
Brain Res 1990 Feb 26;510(1):97-103


Animal studies have established a correlation between release of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and the long-term reduction of 5-HT (toxicity) by 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) with the S(+) enantiomer being more active than the R(-). Using a microculture system of fetal raphe neurons, the enantiomers of MDMA were tested to determine if a similar difference in potency existed. The results showed that the development of the uptake capacity of [3H]5-HT in 4-day cultures was half-maximally inhibited by a single application at time of plating of 5 X 10(-6) M S(+)-MDMA and 5 X 10(-5) M R(-)-MDMA. In order to determine if the Ca2(+)-independent release (chemically induced through the transporter protein and inhibited by reuptake blockers) or the Ca2(+)-dependent release (K(+)-induced and inhibited by presynaptic receptors) contributed to the toxicity, fluoxetine and D1 and alpha 2 agonists were studied. The results showed that both forms of release were involved in the loss of [3H]5-HT uptake capacity, with the direct MDMA-induced Ca2(+)-independent (fluoxetine-sensitive) release being the first step. Evidence from binding studies indicates that MDMA has a micromolar affinity for the 5-HT2 receptor, and our studies in culture showed that ketanserin, a specific 5-HT2 antagonist, was effective at attenuating the effects of S(+)-MDMA on the development of the [3H]5-HT uptake capacity by the cultured raphe neurons. The 5-HT2 receptor is linked to increased intracellular Ca2+ through a second messenger phosphatidylinositol (PI)-hydrolysis mechanism.(

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