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J Psychopharmacol. 2010 Feb;24(2):267-74. doi: 10.1177/0269881109348163. Epub 2009 Dec 4.

Effect of acute brain tyrosine depletion on MDMA-induced changes in brain 5-HT.

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  • 1School of Biomedical Sciences, Institute of Neuroscience, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.


The mechanism by which 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) produces 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin) neurotoxicity has been suggested to involve an acute release of tyrosine and its non-enzymatic conversion to dopamine. To determine whether brain tyrosine availability is important in MDMA-induced neurotoxicity, brain tyrosine was acutely depleted with a tyrosine-free amino acid mixture (1 g/kg intraperitoneal; twice 1 h apart) which was administered prior to an injection of MDMA (12.5 mg/kg intraperitoneal). A small increase in both the hippocampal and striatal tyrosine concentration occurred in control rats treated with MDMA. The tyrosine-free amino acid mixture significantly decreased tyrosine levels by more than 50% in both brain regions 2 h after injection of either MDMA or saline. MDMA significantly reduced brain 5-HT content 2 h later, but this was of a similar magnitude in control and tyrosine-depleted groups. The long-term neurotoxic 5-HT loss in the hippocampus induced two weeks after MDMA administration was unaltered by the tyrosine-free amino acid mixture. Striatal dopamine content was unaffected by acute MDMA in all groups, while the tyrosine-free amino acid mixture given with MDMA significantly decreased striatal dopamine content 2 weeks later. The tyrosine-free amino acid mixture given alone had no affect on rectal body temperature but attenuated the duration of MDMA-induced hyperthermia. The results confirmed the ability of systemic MDMA to acutely increase brain tyrosine content, but also indicated that a marked acute reduction of brain tyrosine does not directly affect either immediate 5-HT release (as measured by tissue depletion) or long-term hippocampal serotonergic neurotoxicity produced by MDMA.

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