Histological and ultrastructural evidence that D-amphetamine causes degeneration in neostriatum and frontal cortex of rats

Brain Res. 1990 Jun 4;518(1-2):67-77. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(90)90955-b.


D-Amphetamine sulfate, continuously administered for 3 days subcutaneously via an implanted minipump, induced neural degeneration in Long-Evans and Sprague-Dawley rats at doses between 20 and 60 mg/kg/day. Using Fink-Heimer silver staining, axonal degeneration was detected in the neostriatum and the dorsal agranular insular cortex and degenerating pyramidal cells were observed in portions of the somatosensory neocortex in both strains. In contrast, dense axonal degeneration largely confined to layers 2 and 3 of frontal motor areas (Fr1, Fr2 and Fr3 of Zilles36) with occasional degenerating cells was seen reliably in Long-Evans rats but rarely in Sprague-Dawley rats. In the electron microscope, cortical degeneration consisted mainly of disrupted cell bodies and dark processes, including axons making asymmetric synapses. Damage in all cortical areas represents damage to non-monoamine neurons and processes since tyrosine hydroxylase and serotonin immunolabeling were normal. In contrast, the damage in neostriatum probably includes damage to dopamine axonal terminals since tyrosine hydroxylase immunolabeling was patchy with many swollen and distorted labeled axons. Serotonin and Leu-enkephalin labeling were normal. Electron microscopy confirmed that the neostriatum contained many tyrosine hydroxylase-labeled axons that were swollen and disrupted, although other labeled processes made normal symmetric synapses onto spines and dendrites. Additional degeneration found only in amphetamine-treated rats included many dark, shrunken profiles. Some of these appeared to be astrocytic processes and a few were myelinated axons, suggesting that some non-monoamine, possibly cortical afferents, are also degenerating in the neostriatum. Since similar degrees of behavioral activation, weight loss and lethality were seen in both strains, a genetic predisposition constrain amphetamine-induced motor cortex damage but not neostriatal damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / pathology*
  • Corpus Striatum / ultrastructure
  • Dextroamphetamine / toxicity*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Grooming / drug effects
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Nerve Degeneration*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Species Specificity
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Serotonin
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dextroamphetamine