Previous experiments conducted in this laboratory showed that administration of high-dose D-fenfluramine (D-FEN) and p-chloroamphetamine (PCA) decreased 5-HT transporter (SERT) binding and tissue 5-HT by 30-60% in caudate and whole brain tissue 2 days and 2 weeks after drug administration. However, protein expression as determined by Western blot analysis did not change in either tissue or time point, except for a 30% decrease in the caudate 2 days after PCA administration. In the present study, we studied the effect of MDMA and 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine (5,7-DHT) on tissue 5-HT levels and the protein expression level of SERT and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), a validated neurotoxicity marker.
MDMA administration decreases SERT expression.
Two weeks after MDMA administration (7.5 mg/kg i.p., q 2 h x 3 doses) or 2 weeks after i.c.v. administration of 5,7,-DHT (150 microg/rat), male Sprague-Dawley rats were sacrificed and the caudate, cortex, and hippocampal tissue collected. Western blots for SERT and GFAP were generated using published methods. Tissue 5-HT levels were determined by HPLC coupled to electrochemical detection.
MDMA treatment decreased tissue 5-HT in cortex, hippocampus, and caudate by about 50%. However, MDMA treatment had no significant effect on expression level of SERT and GFAP in any brain region. In contrast, 5,7-DHT reduced tissue 5-HT by more than 90%, decreased SERT protein expression by 20-35%, and increased GFAP by 30-39%.
These data suggest the MDMA treatment regimen used here does not cause degeneration of 5-HT nerve terminals. Viewed collectively with our previous results and other published data, these data indicate that MDMA-induced persistent 5-HT depletion may occur in the absence of axotomy.