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Front Genet. 2011 Aug 19;2:42. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2011.00042. eCollection 2011.

Peripheral blood RNA expression profiling in illicit methcathinone users reveals effect on immune system.

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  • 1Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, University of Tartu Tartu, Estonia.


Methcathinone (ephedrone) is relatively easily accessible for abuse. Its users develop an extrapyramidal syndrome and it is not known if this is caused by methcathinone itself, by side-ingredients (manganese), or both. In the present study we aimed to clarify molecular mechanisms underlying this condition. We used microarrays to analyze whole-genome gene expression patterns of peripheral blood from 20 methcathinone users and 20 matched controls. Gene expression profile data were analyzed by Bayesian modeling and functional annotation. Of 28,869 genes on the microarrays, 326 showed statistically significant differential expression with FDR adjusted p-values below 0.05. Quantitative real-time PCR confirmed differential expression for the most of the genes selected for validation. Functional annotation and network analysis indicated activation of a gene network that included immunological disease, cellular movement, and cardiovascular disease functions (enrichment score 42). As HIV and HCV infections were confounding factors, we performed additional stratification of subjects. A similar functional activation of the "immunological disease" category was evident when we compared subjects according to injection status (past versus current users, balanced for HIV and HCV infection). However, this difference was not large therefore the major effect was related to the HIV status of the subjects. Mn-methcathinone abusers have blood RNA expression patterns that mostly reflect their HIV and HCV infections.


HIV; ephedrone; gene expression profiling; intravenous drug abuse; manganese; methcathinone

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