Inhibition of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine metabolism leads to marked decrease in 3,4-dihydroxymethamphetamine formation but no change in serotonin neurotoxicity: Implications for mechanisms of neurotoxicity

Melanie Mueller, Jie Yuan, Concepcion Maldonado Adrian, Una D. Mccann, George A. Ricaurte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)'s O-demethylenated metabolite, 3,4-dihydroxymethamphetamine (HHMA), has been hypothesized to serve as a precursor for the formation of toxic catechol-thioether metabolites (e.g., 5-N-acetylcystein-S-yl-HHMA) that mediate MDMA neurotoxicity. To further test this hypothesis, HHMA formation was blocked with dextromethorphan (DXM), which competitively inhibits cytochrome P450 enzyme-mediated O-demethylenation of MDMA to HHMA. In particular, rats were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups (n = 9-12 per group): (1) Saline/MDMA; (2) DXM/MDMA; (3) DXM/Saline; (4) Saline/Saline. During drug exposure, time-concentration profiles of MDMA and its metabolites were determined, along with body temperature. One week later, brain serotonin (5-HT) neuronal markers were measured in the same animals. DXM did not significantly alter core temperature in MDMA-treated animals. A large (greater than 70%) decrease in HHMA formation had no effect on the magnitude of MDMA neurotoxicity. These results cast doubt on the role of HHMA-derived catechol-thioether metabolites in the mechanism of MDMA neurotoxicity. Synapse, 2011.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)983-990
Number of pages8
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011



  • Cytochrome P450 enzyme
  • Ecstasy
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Thioether conjugates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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