Methcathinone and methylone, the beta-ketone analogues of methamphetamine and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), respectively, were tested for neurotransmitter uptake inhibition in vitro. The beta-ketones were threefold less potent than the nonketo drugs at inhibiting platelet serotonin accumulation, with IC(50)'s of 34.6+/-4.8 microM and 5.8+/-0.7 microM, respectively. Methcathinone and methylone were similar in potency to methamphetamine and MDMA at catecholamine transporters individually expressed in transfected glial cells. For dopamine uptake, IC(50)'s were 0.36+/-0.06 microM and 0.82+/-0.17 microM, respectively; for noradrenaline uptake, IC(50) values were 0.51+/-0.10 microM and 1. 2+/-0.1 microM, respectively. In chromaffin granules, IC(50)'s for serotonin accumulation were 112+/-8.0 microM for methcathinone and 166+/-12 microM for methylone, 10-fold higher than the respective values for methamphetamine and MDMA. Our results indicate that methcathinone and methylone potently inhibit plasma membrane catecholamine transporters but only weakly inhibit the vesicle transporter.