We examined the toxicity of methamphetamine and dopamine in CATH.a cells, which were derived from mouse dopamine-producing neural cells in the central nervous system. Use of the quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction revealed that transcripts of the endoplasmic reticulum stress related gene (CHOP/Gadd153/ddit3) were considerably induced at 24–48 h after methamphetamine administration (but only under apoptotic conditions), whereas dopamine slightly induced CHOP/Gadd153/ddit3 transcripts at an early stage. We also found that dopamine and methamphetamine weakly induced transcripts for the glucose-regulated protein 78 gene (Grp78/Bip) at the early stage. Analysis by immunofluorescence microscopy demonstrated an increase of CHOP/Gadd153/ddit3 and Grp78/Bip proteins at 24 h after methamphetamine administration. Treatment of CATH.a cells with methamphetamine caused a re-distribution of dopamine inside the cells, which mimicked the presynaptic activity of neurons with cell bodies located in the ventral tegmental area or the substantia nigra. Thus, we have demonstrated the existence of endoplasmic reticulum stress in a model of presynaptic dopaminergic neurons for the first time. Together with the recent evidence suggesting the importance of presynaptic toxicity, our findings provide new insights into the mechanisms of dopamine toxicity, which might represent one of the most important mechanisms of methamphetamine toxicity and addiction
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