Chronic unpredictable stress augments +3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine-induced monoamine depletions: The role of corticosterone

B. N. Johnson, B. K. Yamamoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Exposure to stress alters the behavioral and neurochemical effects of drugs of abuse. However, it is unknown if chronic stress can affect the serotonergic depletions induced by the psychostimulant drug 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Rats were exposed to 10 days of chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) which resulted in the predicted elevation of basal plasma corticosterone concentrations. On the 11th day, rats received four challenge doses of MDMA (5 mg/kg every 2 h, i.p.) or saline. Five days later, rats were killed and serotonin (5-HT) and dopamine content were measured in the striatum, hippocampus, and frontal cortex. MDMA produced greater depletions of 5-HT in all three brain regions of rats pre-exposed to CUS compared to rats not exposed to CUS. CUS-exposed rats also had an augmented acute hyperthermic response but a similar increase in plasma corticosterone after challenge injections of MDMA compared with non-stressed rats similarly challenged with MDMA. Moreover, CUS-exposed rats exhibited an MDMA-induced depletion of striatal dopamine that was absent in non-stressed rats that received MDMA. To investigate the role of corticosterone in these effects, the corticosterone synthesis inhibitor, metyrapone (50 mg/kg i.p.), was administered prior to each stressor on each of the 10 days of CUS. Metyrapone blocked the chronic stress-induced elevation in basal plasma corticosterone, prevented the enhancement of MDMA-induced hyperthermia, and blocked the enhanced depletions of 5-HT and dopamine in CUS-exposed rats, but had no effect on the acute MDMA-induced increases in plasma corticosterone. These findings suggest that CUS alone can increase the basal level of corticosterone that in turn, plays an important role in enhancing the sensitivity of both 5-HT and dopamine terminals to the hyperthermic and monoamine depleting effects of MDMA without altering the acute corticosterone response to an MDMA challenge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1233-1243
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 10 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-HT
  • frontal cortex
  • hippocampus
  • hyperthermia
  • metyrapone
  • striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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