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Battaglia G, Sharkey J, Kuhar MJ, de Souza EB. 
“Neuroanatomic specificity and time course of alterations in rat brain serotonergic pathways induced by MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine): assessment using quantitative autoradiography”. 
Synapse. 1991;8(4):249-60.
The widely abused 'designer' drug MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) has been shown to cause marked and long-lasting changes in brain serotonergic systems. The present study uses quantitative in vitro autoradiography of 3H-paroxetine labeled 5-HT uptake sites to assess the time-dependent effects of MDMA on 5-HT neurons in specific neuroanatomic loci. Following treatment with MDMA (20 mg/kg, b.i.d. for 4 days), marked decreases in 5-HT uptake sites were observed in a number of brain regions known to receive projections of 5-HT neurons. These regions included cerebral cortex, caudate nucleus, hippocampus, nucleus accumbens, olfactory tubercle, superior and inferior colliculi, geniculate nuclei, and most thalamic nuclei. In contrast, other areas such as the septal nuclei and some thalamic nuclei which also receive 5-HT projections were not substantially affected by this drug. In most regions, decreases in 5-HT uptake sites occurred within 24 hours of the last dose of MDMA and persisted at the 2 week time point. Some regions such as dorsal striatum exhibited a time-dependent reduction with greater reductions occurring at 2 weeks rather than immediately following the MDMA treatment regimen. The density of 5-HT uptake sites in other regions such as endopiriform nucleus and substantia nigra at the 2 week versus 18 hour time point indicated some degree of region-specific recovery. Regions which demonstrated no significant reduction in 5-HT uptake sites included the dorsal and median raphe nuclei, ventral tegmental area, central grey, interpeduncular nucleus, locus coerulus, pontine reticular formation and cerebellum. Likewise, regions containing 5-HT axons of passage (e.g., indusium griseum and lateral hypothalamus) appeared to be insensitive to the neurotoxic effects of MDMA on 5-HT neurons. Furthermore, the neurotoxic effects of MDMA showed specificity in that the catecholamine neurons labeled by 3H-mazindol were unaffected by the treatment regimen. These data indicate that the preferential degeneration of serotonergic neurons by MDMA is mediated primarily at 5-HT terminal regions, whereas regions containing 5-HT perikarya and axons of passage remain relatively unaffected. In addition, the observed time-dependent reductions and recovery of 5-HT uptake sites which were detected within 2 weeks of the treatment regimen in certain brain regions suggest region-specific differences in recovery of 5-HT systems from MDMA-induced lesion.
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