Methamphetamine (METH) is a highly addictive substance that is highly prevalent in today’s society, with over 1 in 20 adults over 26 having taken it at least once. While it is known that METH, a common psychostimulant, acts on both the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) and nigrostriatal DA systems by affecting proteins involved in DA reuptake and vesicular packaging, the specific mechanism of what is known as METH neurotoxicity remains obscure, but has been shown to involve oxidative stress. Studies have shown that reactive oxygen species act on the same proteins that METH affects. Oxidative species have also been known to catalyze the formation of melanins in dopaminergic cells. We explore this link more fully here. In an in vitro system, oxidative species (including Fe3+, an inorganic catalyst for oxidative stress), enhance the rate of melanization of DA. Methamphetamine increased oxidative stress in an in vivo model. Additionally, METH enhanced phasic (stimulated) DA release and caused an electrically-independent efflux of DA. Lidocaine abolished phasic DA release, but did not affect METH-induced DA efflux, indicating action-potential dependent and independent mechanisms behind METH’s effects. The sigma-1 receptor antagonist BD 1063 significantly attenuated METH’s effect on DA release. Depletion of intracellular calcium (Ca2+) reserves also attenuated METH-enhancement of DA release. We investigated the role of oxidative species in METH-induced DA efflux. Reduced glutathione (the substrate for glutathione peroxidase) and 4-hydroxy-TEMPOL (a superoxide dismutase mimetic) blocked METH’s effect on DA release, suggesting that a reactive oxygen species (ROS), most likely superoxide, is necessary for METH-induced DA efflux. Finally, oxidative stress as well as acute METH impairs the vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) by S-glutathionylation modification of Cys-488, highlighting VMAT2 as a likely regulator of METH’s effects on electrically independent DA release. These findings help outline a model in which METH induces DA release in the NAc through a signaling cascade involving the sigma receptor and ROS signaling molecules.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Chemistry and Biochemistry



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dopamine release, methamphetamine, reactive oxygen species, neuromelanin, nucleus accumbens, voltammetry



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Chemistry Commons