Methamphetamine (METH) abuse is associated with several negative side effects including neurotoxicity in specific brain regions such as the striatum. The precise molecular mechanisms by which METH usage results in neurotoxicity remain to be fully elucidated, with recent evidence implicating the importance of microglial activation and neuroinflammation in damaged brain regions. METH interacts with sigma receptors which are found in glial cells in addition to neurons. Moreover, sigma receptor antagonists have been shown to block METH-induced neurotoxicity in rodents although the cellular mechanisms underlying their neuroprotection remain unknown. The purpose of the current study was to determine if the prototypic sigma receptor antagonist, SN79, mitigates METH-induced microglial activation and associated increases in cytokine expression in a rodent model of METH-induced neurotoxicity. METH increased striatal mRNA and protein levels of cluster of differentiation 68 (CD68), indicative of microglial activation. METH also increased ionized calcium binding adapter molecule 1 (IBA-1) protein expression, further confirming the activation of microglia. Along with microglial activation, METH increased striatal mRNA expression levels of IL-6 family pro-inflammatory cytokines, leukemia inhibitory factor (lif), oncostatin m (osm), and interleukin-6 (il-6). Pretreatment with SN79 reduced METH-induced increases in CD68 and IBA-1 expression, demonstrating its ability to prevent microglial activation. SN79 also attenuated METH-induced mRNA increases in IL-6 pro-inflammatory cytokine family members. The ability of a sigma receptor antagonist to block METH-induced microglial activation and cytokine production provides a novel mechanism through which the neurotoxic effects of METH may be mitigated.
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