Exposure to high or repeated doses of methamphetamine can cause hyperthermia and neurotoxicity, which are thought to increase the risk of developing a variety of neurological conditions. Sigma receptor antagonism can prevent methamphetamine-induced hyperthermia and neurotoxicity, but the underlying cellular targets through which the neuroprotection is conveyed remain unknown. Differentiated NG108-15 cells were thus used as a model system to begin elucidating the neuroprotective mechanisms targeted by sigma receptor antagonists to mitigate the effects of methamphetamine. In differentiated NG108-15 cells, methamphetamine caused the generation of reactive oxygen/nitrogen species, an increase in PERK-mediated endoplasmic reticulum stress and the activation of caspase-3, -8 and -9, ultimately resulting in apoptosis at micromolar concentrations, and necrotic cell death at higher concentrations. The sigma receptor antagonist, 6-acetyl-3-(4-(4-(4-fluorophenyl)piperazin-1-yl)butyl)benzo[d]oxazol-2(3H)-one (SN79), attenuated methamphetamine-induced increases in reactive oxygen/nitrogen species, activation of caspase-3, -8 and -9 and accompanying cellular toxicity. In contrast, 1,3-di(2-tolyl)-guanidine (DTG), a sigma receptor agonist, shifted the dose response curve of methamphetamine-induced cell death towards the left. To probe the effect of temperature on neurotoxicity, NG108-15 cells maintained at an elevated temperature (40 °C) exhibited a significant and synergistic increase in cell death in response to methamphetamine, compared to cells maintained at a normal cell culture temperature (37 °C). SN79 attenuated the enhanced cell death observed in the methamphetamine-treated cells at 40 °C. Together, the data demonstrate that SN79 reduces methamphetamine-induced reactive oxygen/nitrogen species generation and caspase activation, thereby conveying neuroprotective effects against methamphetamine under regular and elevated temperature conditions.
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