3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone prevents while methylone enhances methamphetamine-induced damage to dopamine nerve endings: β-ketoamphetamine modulation of neurotoxicity by the dopamine transporter

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Abstract

Methylone, 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), and mephedrone are psychoactive ingredients of ‘bath salts’ and their abuse represents a growing public health care concern. These drugs are cathinone derivatives and are classified chemically as β-ketoamphetamines. Because of their close structural similarity to the amphetamines, methylone, MDPV, and mephedrone share most of their pharmacological, neurochemical, and behavioral properties. One point of divergence in their actions is the ability to cause damage to the CNS. Unlike methamphetamine, the β-ketoamphetamines do not damage dopamine (DA) nerve endings. However, mephedrone has been shown to significantly accentuate methamphetamine neurotoxicity. Bath salt formulations contain numerous different psychoactive ingredients, and individuals who abuse bath salts also coabuse other illicit drugs. Therefore, we have evaluated the effects of methylone, MDPV, mephedrone, and methamphetamine on DA nerve endings. The β-ketoamphetamines alone or in all possible two-drug combinations do not result in damage to DA nerve endings but do cause hyperthermia. MDPV completely protects against the neurotoxic effects of methamphetamine while methylone accentuates it. Neither MDPV nor methylone attenuates the hyperthermic effects of methamphetamine. The potent neuroprotective effects of MDPV extend to amphetamine-, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine-, and MPTP-induced neurotoxicity. These results indicate that β-ketoamphetamine drugs that are non-substrate blockers of the DA transporter (i.e., MDPV) protect against methamphetamine neurotoxicity, whereas those that are substrates for uptake by the DA transporter and which cause DA release (i.e., methylone, mephedrone) accentuate neurotoxicity.

METH (a) enters DA nerve endings via the DAT, causes leakage of DA into the cytoplasm and then into the synapse via DAT-mediated reverse transport. Methylone (METHY) and mephedrone (MEPH; b), like METH, are substrates for the DAT but release DA from cytoplasmic pools selectively. When METH is combined with METHY or MEPH (c), DA efflux and neurotoxicity are enhanced. MDPV (d), which is a non-substrate blocker of the DAT, prevents METH uptake and efflux of DA. Therefore, bath salts that are substrates for the DAT and release DA (METHY, MEPH) accentuate METH neurotoxicity, whereas those that are non-substrate blockers of the DAT (MDPV) are neuroprotective.

METH (a) enters DA nerve endings via the DAT, causes leakage of DA into the cytoplasm and then into the synapse via DAT-mediated reverse transport. Methylone (METHY) and mephedrone (MEPH; b), like METH, are substrates for the DAT but release DA from cytoplasmic pools selectively. When METH is combined with METHY or MEPH (c), DA efflux and neurotoxicity are enhanced. MDPV (d), which is a non-substrate blocker of the DAT, prevents METH uptake and efflux of DA. Therefore, bath salts that are substrates for the DAT and release DA (METHY, MEPH) accentuate METH neurotoxicity, whereas those that are non-substrate blockers of the DAT (MDPV) are neuroprotective.

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