Dextromethorphan-induced psychotoxic behaviors cause sexual dysfunction in male mice via stimulation of σ-1 receptors

Neurochem Int. 2012 Nov;61(6):913-22. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2012.01.025. Epub 2012 Feb 2.


Dextromethorphan (DM) is a well-known antitussive dextrorotatory morphinan. We and others have demonstrated that sigma (σ) receptors may be important for DM-mediated neuromodulation. Because an earlier report suggested that DM might affect sexual function and that σ receptor ligands affect signaling pathways in the periphery, we examined whether DM-induced psychotoxic burden affected male reproductive function. We observed that DM had a high affinity at σ-1 receptors in the brain and testis but relatively low affinity at σ-2 receptors. Prolonged treatment with DM resulted in conditioned place preference and hyperlocomotion, followed by an increase in Fos-related antigen expression in the nucleus accumbens in male mice. Simultaneously, DM induced significant reductions in gonadotropin-releasing-hormone immunoreactivity in the hypothalamus. Moreover, we observed that DM induced increased sperm abnormalities and decreased sperm viability and sexual behavior. These phenomena were significantly attenuated by combined treatment with BD1047, a σ-1 receptor antagonist, but not by SM-21, a σ-2 receptor antagonist. Thus, these results suggest that DM psychotoxicity might lead to reproductive stress in male mice by activating σ-1 receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dextromethorphan / adverse effects*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Locomotion
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Radioligand Assay
  • Receptors, sigma / agonists*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Sigma-1 Receptor
  • Sperm Motility / drug effects


  • Receptors, sigma
  • Dextromethorphan