Identifying the serotonin transporter signal in Western blot studies of the neurotoxic potential of MDMA and related drugs

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A number of published studies have questioned the serotonin neurotoxic potential of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, “ecstasy”) and related drugs (fenfluramine, p-chloroamphetamine) based upon results from Western blot studies using a custom synthesized serotonin transporter (SERT) antibody that found no reduction in the abundance of a 50kDa protein after substituted amphetamine treatment. The purpose of this study was to collect Western blot data using the same SERT antibody used in those studies, but with positive and negative controls to identify the SERT protein signal. A 63–68 kDa band that had the regional distribution expected of rat brain SERT, was decreased by 5,7-DHT, and was absent in SERT KO animals was identified as the SERT protein. Significant, lasting decreases in the abundance of the 63–68 kDa band were evident in the rat brain after treatment with MDMA and related drugs (FEN, PCA). Thus, when the band corresponding to the SERT protein is identified in Western blots through the use of positive and negative controls, reduced abundance of the SERT protein can be readily demonstrated after substituted amphetamine treatment. These data provide further evidence of lasting loss of the SERT protein after exposure to MDMA and other substituted amphetamines. Synapse, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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