Secretory vesicle rebound hyperacidification and increased quantal size resulting from prolonged methamphetamine exposure

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Acute exposure to amphetamines (AMPHs) collapses secretory vesicle pH gradients, which increases cytosolic catecholamine levels while decreasing the quantal size of catecholamine release during fusion events. AMPH and methamphetamine (METH), however, are retained in tissues over long durations. We used optical and electron microscopic probes to measure the effects of long-term METH exposure on secretory vesicle pH, and amperometry and intracellular patch electrochemistry to observe the effects on neurosecretion and cytosolic catecholamines in cultured rat chromaffin cells. In contrast to acute METH effects, exposure to the drug for 6–48 h at 10 μM and higher concentrations produced a concentration-dependent rebound hyperacidification of secretory vesicles. At 5–10 μM levels, prolonged METH increased the quantal size and reinstated exocytotic catecholamine release, although very high (> 100 μM) levels of the drug, while continuing to produce rebound hyperacidification, did not increase quantal size. Secretory vesicle rebound hyperacidification was temperature dependent with optimal response at ∼37°C, was not blocked by the transcription inhibitor, puromycin, and appears to be a general compensatory response to prolonged exposure with membranophilic weak bases, including AMPHs, methylphenidate, cocaine, and ammonia. Thus, under some conditions of prolonged exposure, AMPHs and other weak bases can enhance, rather than deplete, the vesicular release of catecholamines via a compensatory response resulting in vesicle acidification.

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