The selective serotonergic neurotoxicity of 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) depends on their systemic metabolism. We have recently shown that inhibition of brain endothelial cell γ-glutamyl transpeptidase (γ-GT) potentiates the neurotoxicity of both MDMA and MDA, indicating that metabolites that are substrates for this enzyme contribute to the neurotoxicity. Consistent with this view, glutathione (GSH) and N-acetylcysteine conjugates of α-methyl dopamine (α-MeDA) are selective neurotoxicants. However, neurotoxic metabolites of MDMA or MDA have yet to be identified in brain. Using in vivo microdialysis coupled to liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectroscopy and a high-performance liquid chromatography-coulometric electrode array system, we now show that GSH and N-acetylcysteine conjugates of N-methyl-α-MeDA are present in the striatum of rats administered MDMA by subcutaneous injection. Moreover, inhibition of γ-GT with acivicin increases the concentration of GSH and N-acetylcysteine conjugates of N-methyl-α-MeDA in brain dialysate, and there is a direct correlation between the concentrations of metabolites in dialysate and the extent of neurotoxicity, measured by decreases in serotonin (5-HT) and 5-hydroxyindole acetic (5-HIAA) levels. Importantly, the effects of acivicin are independent of MDMA-induced hyperthermia, since acivicin-mediated potentiation of MDMA neurotoxicity occurs in the context of acivicin-mediated decreases in body temperature. Finally, we have synthesized 5-(N-acetylcystein-S-yl)-N- methyl-α-MeDA and established that it is a relatively potent serotonergic neurotoxicant. Together, the data support the contention that MDMA-mediated serotonergic neurotoxicity is mediated by the systemic formation of GSH and N-acetylcysteine conjugates of N-methyl-α-MeDA (and α-MeDA). The mechanisms by which such metabolites access the brain and produce selective serotonergic neurotoxicity remain to be determined.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics|
|State||Published - Apr 1 2005|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Medicine