Effect of MDMA exposure during pregnancy on cell apoptosis, astroglia, and microglia activity in rat offspring striatum

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Biology, Faculty of Basic Sciences, Golestan University, Gorgan, Iran

2 Department of Biology, Faculty of Basic Sciences, Yasuj University, Yasuj, Iran

3 Gorgan Congenital Malformations Research Center, Golestan University of Medical Sciences, Gorgan, Iran


Objective(s): Ecstasy is a popular recreational psychostimulant with side effects on the central nervous system. This study examined the corpus striatum tissue of adult rats that received ecstasy during the embryonic period for histological and molecular studies.
Materials and Methods: Rats were divided into control and ecstasy groups. The ecstasy group was given MDMA 15 mg/kg intraperitoneally twice daily at 8-hour intervals on days 7–15 of gestation. At the age of 15 weeks, adult offspring of both groups were examined for learning and memory study by the Morris water maze test. Then, ventral striatum tissue was harvested for TUNEL assay, Nissl staining, and real-time PCR for the expression of the GFAP and CD11b. 
Results: Ecstasy up-regulated the GFAP and CD11b expression in the striatum of offspring (*P˂0.05). Furthermore, the Morris water maze test showed that exposure to ecstasy significantly impaired learning and spatial memory (*P˂0.05). TUNEL assay results did not show any significant change in the number of apoptotic cells in the striatum tissue of ecstasy offspring compared with controls, while Nissl staining showed a significant decrease in the number of neurons in the ecstasy group (*P˂0.05).
Conclusion: Exposure to ecstasy during pregnancy causes long-lasting changes in brain regions underlying learning and memory, including the striatum, and impaired working memory in the offspring. In addition, these data provide the first evidence that exposure to ecstasy during the embryonic period causes a persistent change in the activity of microglial cells and the number of astrocyte cells in the striatum.


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