Pathological changes induced in cerebrocortical neurons by phencyclidine and related drugs

Science. 1989 Jun 16;244(4910):1360-2. doi: 10.1126/science.2660263.


Phencyclidine (PCP), a dissociative anesthetic and widely abused psychotomimetic drug, and MK-801, a potent PCP receptor ligand, have neuroprotective properties stemming from their ability to antagonize the excitotoxic actions of endogenous excitatory amino acids such as glutamate and aspartate. There is growing interest in the potential application of these compounds in the treatment of neurological disorders. However, there is an apparent neurotoxic effect of PCP and related agents (MK-801, tiletamine, and ketamine), which has heretofore been overlooked: these drugs induce acute pathomorphological changes in specific populations of brain neurons when administered subcutaneously to adult rats in relatively low doses. These findings raise new questions regarding the safety of these agents in the clinical management of neurodegenerative diseases and reinforce concerns about the potential risks associated with illicit use of PCP.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects*
  • Cerebral Cortex / pathology
  • Dibenzocycloheptenes / toxicity*
  • Dizocilpine Maleate
  • Female
  • Ketamine / toxicity
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Phencyclidine / toxicity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Tiletamine / toxicity
  • Time Factors


  • Dibenzocycloheptenes
  • Tiletamine
  • Ketamine
  • Dizocilpine Maleate
  • Phencyclidine