Different glial response to methamphetamine-
and methylenedioxymethamphetamine-induced neurotoxicity

Pubill D, Canudas AM, Pallas M, Camins A, Camarasa J, Escubedo E.
Unitat de Farmacologia i Farmacognosia, Facultat de Farmacia,
Universitat de Barcelona, Nucli Universitari de Pedralbes,
08028, Barcelona, Spain.
Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol 2003 Apr 9


The consequences of the neurotoxic insult induced by 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, an amphetamine derivative with specific action on the serotonergic system) were compared with those of methamphetamine (a derivative with specific action on dopaminergic system) in rats. Both drugs induced a very similar loss of body weight, especially evident 24 h after treatment. Their hyperthermic profile was also very similar and was dependent on ambient temperature, corroborating the thermo-dysregulatory effect of both substances. Methamphetamine (four injections of 10 mg kg(-1) s.c. at 2-h intervals) induced the loss of dopaminergic (35%) but not of serotonergic, terminals in the rat striatum and, simultaneously, a significant increase in striatal peripheral-type benzodiazepine receptor density, pointing to a glial reaction. Evidence for this drug-induced astrogliosis was the increased heat shock protein 27 (HSP27) expression in striatum, cortex and hippocampus.MDMA (20 mg kg(-1) s.c. b.i.d. for 4 days) induced a similar dopaminergic lesion in the striatum 3 days post-treatment, which reversed 4 days later. An important neurotoxic effect on serotonergic terminals was also observed in the cortex, striatum and hippocampus 3 days post-treatment, which partially reversed 4 days later in the striatum and hippocampus. No microglial activation was noticeable at either 3 or 7 days after MDMA treatment. This lack of effect on microglial cells was assessed by [(3)H]PK 11195 binding and OX-6 immunostaining, which were unchanged in the striatum and cortex after MDMA treatment. A non-significant tendency to increase was noted in the hippocampus 3 days after MDMA treatment. Furthermore, in MDMA-treated rats, neither HSP27 expression nor an increase in HSP27 immunoreactivity were detected. This result, together with the lack of increase in glial fibrilliary acidic protein (GFAP) immunoreactivity, indicate no astroglial activation at either 3 or 7 days post-treatment. Without microglial activation, an inflammatory process would not accompany the lesion induced by MDMA. The differences in glial activation between methamphetamine and MDMA observed in the present study could have implications for the prognosis of the injury induced by these drugs.

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