Actions of MDMA at glutamatergic neuromuscular junctions

G. M. Sparks, S. Dasari, R. L. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "Ecstasy") compels mammalian serotonergic neurons to release serotonin (5-HT). In this study, MDMA altered synaptic transmission presynaptically by enhancing quantal release in two model glutamatergic synapses - the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) of the crayfish opener muscle, which is enhanced by exogenous 5-HT application, and the NMJ of a larval body wall muscle in Drosophila melanogaster, which is insensitive to exogenous 5-HT application. At the crayfish NMJ, MDMA mimicked the actions of 5-HT but only at a substantially higher concentration. At the Drosophila NMJ, MDMA altered synaptic transmission but not through a 5-HT receptor. Using simple invertebrate preparations, we have demonstrated an additional non-serotonergic mechanism of MDMA activity that has not yet been addressed in vertebrate systems and that may play an important role in understanding the mechanism of action for a commonly abused drug.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-438
Number of pages8
JournalNeuroscience Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided by NSF-IBN-0131459 (RLC), a G. Ribble Fellowship in graduate studies at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Kentucky (SD), a G. Ribble Fellowship for undergraduate studies in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Kentucky (GMS) and a Undergraduate Research Scholarship awarded by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation (GMS).


  • 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine
  • 5-HT
  • 5-hydroxytryptamine
  • DA
  • Dopamine
  • EPSP
  • Excitatory post-synaptic potential
  • Field excitatory post-synaptic potential
  • Field miniature excitatory post-synaptic potential
  • MDMA
  • Mean quantal content
  • NE
  • fEPSP
  • fmEPSP
  • m

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)


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