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Proteomics. 2008 Sep;8(18):3906-18. doi: 10.1002/pmic.200800215.

Mechanism of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy)-mediated mitochondrial dysfunction in rat liver.

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Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, MD 20892-9410, USA.


Despite numerous reports citing the acute hepatotoxicity caused by 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) (ecstasy), the underlying mechanism of organ damage is poorly understood. We hypothesized that key mitochondrial proteins are oxidatively modified and inactivated in MDMA-exposed tissues. The aim of this study was to identify and investigate the mechanism of inactivation of oxidatively modified mitochondrial proteins, prior to the extensive mitochondrial dysfunction and liver damage following MDMA exposure. MDMA-treated rats showed abnormal liver histology with significant elevation in plasma transaminases, nitric oxide synthase, and the level of hydrogen peroxide. Oxidatively modified mitochondrial proteins in control and MDMA-exposed rats were labeled with biotin-N-maleimide (biotin-NM) as a sensitive probe for oxidized proteins, purified with streptavidin-agarose, and resolved using 2-DE. Comparative 2-DE analysis of biotin-NM-labeled proteins revealed markedly increased levels of oxidatively modified proteins following MDMA exposure. Mass spectrometric analysis identified oxidatively modified mitochondrial proteins involved in energy supply, fat metabolism, antioxidant defense, and chaperone activities. Among these, the activities of mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase, 3-ketoacyl-CoA thiolases, and ATP synthase were significantly inhibited following MDMA exposure. Our data show for the first time that MDMA causes the oxidative inactivation of key mitochondrial enzymes which most likely contributes to mitochondrial dysfunction and subsequent liver damage in MDMA-exposed animals.

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