• accumbens shell;
  • dopamine;
  • microdialysis;
  • phosphorylated extracellular signal regulated kinase;
  • R;
  • S(±)-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (Ecstasy);
  • stereoselectivity


R,S(±)-3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (R,S(±)-MDMA, ‘Ecstasy’) is known to stimulate dopamine (DA) transmission in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). In order to investigate the post-synaptic correlates of pre-synaptic changes in DA transmission and their relationship with MDMA enantiomers, we studied the effects of R,S(±)-MDMA, S(+)-MDMA, and R(−)-MDMA on extracellular DA and phosphorylated extracellular signal regulated kinase (pERK) in the NAc shell and core. Male Sprague–Dawley rats, implanted with a catheter in the femoral vein and vertical concentric dialysis probes in the NAc shell and core, were administered i.v. saline, R,S(±)-MDMA, S(+)-MDMA, or R(−)-MDMA. Extracellular DA was monitored by in vivo microdialysis with HPLC. Intravenous R,S(±)-MDMA (0.64, 1, and 2 mg/kg) increased dialysate DA, preferentially in the shell, in a dose-related manner. S(+)-MDMA exerted similar effects but at lower doses than R,S(±)-MDMA, while R(−)-MDMA (1 and 2 mg/kg) failed to affect dialysate DA. R,S(±)- and S(+)-MDMA but not R(−)-MDMA increased ERK phosphorylation (expressed as density/neuron and number of pERK-positive neurons/area) in both subdivisions of the NAc. The administration of the D1 receptor antagonist, SCH 39166, prevented the increase in pERK elicited by R,S(±)-MDMA and S(+)-MDMA, while the D2/3 receptor antagonist, raclopride, increased pERK in the NAc core per se but failed to affect the R,S(±)-MDMA-elicited stimulation of pERK. The present results provide evidence that the DA stimulant effects of racemic MDMA are accounted for by the S(+)-enantiomer and that pERK may represent a post-synaptic correlate of the stimulant effect of R,S(±)-MDMA on D1-dependent DA transmission.