• amphetamine;
  • apoptosis;
  • cocaine;
  • dopamine;
  • heroin;
  • mitochondria;
  • PC12 cells

Abstract: Drugs of abuse induce the release of dopamine in the central nervous system, particularly in the mesolimbic-mesocortical pathway. As dopamine may act as a neurotoxin, in this study, we analyzed the effects of the drugs of abuse, cocaine, heroin, and amphetamine, on the neurodegeneration of PC12 cells, a dopaminergic cell line, by evaluating the activity of caspase-3 and mitochondrial cytochrome c release. All the drugs were shown to induce caspase-3 activation, similarly to staurosporine, a classical inducer of apoptotic cell death. Furthermore, like staurosporine, the drugs of abuse induced a decrease in mitochondrial cytochrome c content, suggesting the involvement of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway.