• 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine;
  • drug addiction;
  • mesencephalic slice culture;
  • methamphetamine;
  • sensitization;
  • serotonergic neurons


Several lines of evidence suggest the involvement of the raphe-serotonergic neurons in addiction to psychostimulants and some recreational drugs. In this study, we established rat organotypic mesencephalic slice cultures containing the raphe nuclei and examined the effects of sustained exposure to 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and methamphetamine (METH). Immunostaining for tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) studies revealed that serotonergic neurons were abundant in the slice cultures. Sustained exposure to MDMA and METH (1–1000 μM) for 4 days had little effect on the serotonin tissue content, [3H]citalopram binding, or expression/phosphorylation of TPH. Treatment with MDMA or METH for 30 min increased serotonin release in a concentration-dependent manner. Slice cultures were exposed to MDMA for 4 days following a 1-day withdrawal period and then challenged with MDMA (10 μM). Sustained MDMA exposure augmented MDMA-induced serotonin release in a concentration-dependent manner, indicating serotonergic sensitization. Similar serotonergic sensitization was observed for METH. The development of MDMA-induced serotonergic sensitization was attenuated by the NMDA receptor antagonist, MK-801 (10 μM). These results suggest that in mesencephalic slice cultures sustained MDMA or METH exposure induces serotonergic sensitization through activation of NMDA receptors without serotonergic neurotoxicity. The in vitro model system could help to elucidate the mechanisms underlying drug addiction.