Glutathione and N-acetylcysteine conjugates of α-methyldopamine produce serotonergic neurotoxicity: Possible role in methylenedioxyamphetamine- mediated neurotoxicity

Fengju Bai, Serrine S. Lau, Terrence J. Monks

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Direct injection of either 3,4-(±)-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) or 3,4-(±)-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) into the brain fails to reproduce the serotonergic neurotoxicity seen following peripheral administration. The serotonergic neurotoxicity of MDA and MDMA therefore appears to be dependent upon the generation of a neurotoxic metabolite, or metabolites, the identity of which remains unclear. α-Methyldopamine (α-MeDA) is a major metabolite of both MDA and MDMA. We have shown that intracerebroventricular (icv) injection of 2,5-bis(glutathion-S-yl)-α-methyldopamine [2,5-bis(glutathion- S-yl)-α-MeDA] causes decreases in serotonin concentrations in the striatum, cortex, and hippocampus, and neurobehavioral effects similar to those seen following MDA and MDMA administration. In contrast, although 5-(glutathion-S- yl)-α-methyldopamine [5-(glutathion-S-yl)-α-MeDA] and 5-(N-acetylcystein-S- yl)-α-methyldopamine [5-(N-acetylcystein-S-yl)-α-MeDA] produce neurobehavioral changes similar to those seen with MDA and MDMA, and acute changes in brain 5-HT and dopamine concentrations, neither conjugate caused long-term decreases in 5-HT concentrations. We now report that direct intrastriatal or intracortical administration of 5-(glutathion-S-yl)α-MeDA (4 x 200 or 4 x 400 nmol), 5-(N-acetylcystein-S-yl)-α-MeDA (4 x 7 or 4 x 20 nmol), and 2,5-bis(glutathion-S-yl)-α-MeDA (4 x 150 or 4 x 300 nmol) causes significant decreases in striatal and cortical 5-HT concentrations (7 days following the last injection). Interestingly, intrastriatal injection of 5- (glutathion-S-yl)-α-MeDA or 2,5-bis(glutathion-S-yl)-α-MeDA, but not 5-(N- acetylcystein-S-yl)-α-methyldopamine, also caused decreases in 5-HT concentrations in the ipsilateral cortex. The same pattern of changes was seen when the conjugates were injected into the cortex. The effects of the thioether conjugates of α-MeDA were confined to 5-HT nerve terminal fields, since no significant changes in monoamine neurotransmitter levels were detected in brain regions enriched with 5-HT cell bodies (midbrain/diencephalon/telencephalon and pons/medulla). In addition, the effects of the conjugates were selective with respect to the serotonergic system, as no significant changes were seen in dopamine or norepinephrine concentrations. The results indicate that thioether conjugates of α-MeDA are selective serotonergic neurotoxicants. Nonetheless, a role for these conjugates in the toxicity observed following systemic administration of MDA and MDMA remains to be demonstrated, and requires further experimentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1150-1157
Number of pages8
JournalChemical Research in Toxicology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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