Effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) on serotonin transporter and vesicular monoamine transporter 2 protein and gene expression in rats: implications for MDMA neurotoxicity.J Neurochem 2010; 112(4):951-62JN
3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; 'Ecstasy') is a popular recreational drug used worldwide. This study aimed to determine the effects of this compound on the expression of nerve terminal serotonergic markers in rats. Experiment 1 investigated MDMA-induced changes in levels of the serotonin transporter (SERT) and the vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT-2) in the hippocampus, a region with sparse dopaminergic innervation, after lesioning noradrenergic input with N-(2-chloroethyl)-N-ethyl-2-bromobenzylamine (DSP-4). Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were administered 100 mg/kg DSP-4 or saline 1 week prior to either an MDMA (10 mg/kg x 4) or saline binge. Two weeks following the binge treatment, the DSP-4/MDMA group unexpectedly showed little change in hippocampal VMAT-2 protein expression compared with DSP-4/Saline controls, despite large reductions in SERT levels in all regions examined in the MDMA-treated animals. Furthermore, animals treated with binge MDMA (Experiment 2) showed a striking decrease in SERT gene expression (and a lesser effect on VMAT-2) measured by quantitative RT-PCR in pooled dorsal and median raphe tissue punches, when compared with saline-treated controls. These results demonstrate that MDMA causes substantial regulatory changes in the expression of serotonergic markers, thus questioning the need to invoke distal axotomy as an explanation of MDMA-related serotonergic deficits.