Differing neurotoxic potencies of methamphetamine, mazindol, and cocaine in mesencephalic cultures

J Neurochem. 1993 Apr;60(4):1444-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.1993.tb03307.x.


The potent reinforcing effects of methamphetamine and cocaine are thought to be mediated by their interactions with CNS dopamine neurons. Both stimulants share the ability to block dopamine uptake potently, and methamphetamine can release cytoplasmic dopamine as well. There is also abundant evidence demonstrating the neurotoxic effects of methamphetamine. There are, however, limited studies that attempt to discern the neurotoxic mechanisms of these agents. The purpose of the present study was to characterize and compare the chronic in vitro effects of methamphetamine, cocaine, and the dopamine uptake blocker, mazindol, on cultured fetal mesencephalic dopamine neurons. Our studies examined biochemical mechanisms to evaluate the contribution of reuptake blockade versus release of dopamine. Using a dispersed cell preparation of fetal mesencephalon, cultures were treated for 5 days with the three uptake blockers. Dopamine function was assessed by measuring high-affinity [3H]dopamine uptake and by examining cultures for the presence of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunopositive neurons. Nonspecific neurotoxicity was assessed by staining for neuron-specific enolase and measuring lactate dehydrogenase activity. The results indicate that repeated administration of high concentrations of methamphetamine (10(-4) and 10(-3) M) caused a generalized neurotoxicity whereas the effects of 10(-5) M methamphetamine appeared to be specific to dopamine cells. Likewise, treatment of the cultures with mazindol (10(-6) M) resulted in reduced dopamine uptake while not significantly affecting neuron-specific enolase or tyrosine hydroxylase immunostaining. On the other hand, repeated exposure to cocaine (10(-5) and 10(-4) M) did not alter dopaminergic function in these cultures. The different mechanisms of action of these stimulants may explain the differences in neurotoxic potency of these compounds.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cocaine / administration & dosage
  • Cocaine / pharmacology
  • Cocaine / toxicity*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Mazindol / administration & dosage
  • Mazindol / pharmacology
  • Mazindol / toxicity*
  • Mesencephalon / drug effects*
  • Mesencephalon / embryology
  • Methamphetamine / administration & dosage
  • Methamphetamine / pharmacology
  • Methamphetamine / toxicity*
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase / analysis
  • Rats
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / analysis


  • Methamphetamine
  • Mazindol
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Phosphopyruvate Hydratase
  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine