PACAP38 increases vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) expression and attenuates methamphetamine toxicity

Neuropeptides. 2008 Aug;42(4):423-34. doi: 10.1016/j.npep.2008.04.003. Epub 2008 Jun 3.


Pituitary adenylyl cyclase activating polypeptide, 38 amino acids (PACAP38) is a brain-gut peptide with diverse physiological functions and is neuroprotective in several models of neurological disease. In this study, we show that systemic administration of PACAP38, which is transported across the blood-brain barrier, greatly reduces the neurotoxicity of methamphetamine (METH). Mice treated with PACAP38 exhibited an attenuation of striatal dopamine loss after METH exposure as well as greatly reduced markers of oxidative stress. PACAP38 treatment also prevented striatal neuroinflammation after METH administration as measured by overexpression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), an indicator of astrogliosis, and glucose transporter 5 (GLUT5), a marker of microgliosis. In PACAP38 treated mice, the observed protective effects were not due to an altered thermal response to METH. Since the mice were not challenged with METH until 28 days after PACAP38 treatment, this suggests the neuroprotective effects are mediated by regulation of gene expression. At the time of METH administration, PACAP38 treated animals exhibited a preferential increase in the expression and function of the vesicular monoamine transporter (VMAT2). Genetic reduction of VMAT2 has been shown to increase the neurotoxicity of METH, thus we propose that the increased expression of VMAT2 may underlie the protective actions of PACAP38 against METH. The ability of PACAP38 to increase VMAT2 expression suggests that PACAP38 signaling pathways may constitute a novel therapeutic approach to treat and prevent disorders of dopamine storage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Body Temperature
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopamine Agents / toxicity*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / toxicity*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide / administration & dosage
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide / metabolism*
  • Vesicular Monoamine Transport Proteins / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Dopamine Agents
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide
  • Vesicular Monoamine Transport Proteins
  • Methamphetamine
  • Dopamine