Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology

, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp 690–702 | Cite as

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA – Ecstasy) Decreases Neutrophil Activity Through the Glucocorticoid Pathway and Impairs Host Resistance to Listeria Monocytogenes Infection in Mice

  • V. Ferraz-de-Paula
  • A. Ribeiro
  • J. Souza-Queiroz
  • M. L. Pinheiro
  • J. F. Vecina
  • D. P. M. Souza
  • W. M. Quinteiro-Filho
  • R. L. M. Moreau
  • M. L. S. Queiroz
  • J. Palermo-NetoEmail author


Ecstasy is the popular name of the abuse drug 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) that decreases immunity in animals. The mechanisms that generate such alterations are still controversial. Seven independent pharmacological approaches were performed in mice to identify the possible mechanisms underlying the decrease of neutrophil activity induced by MDMA and the possible effects of MDMA on host resistance to Listeria monocytogenes. Our data showed that MDMA (10 mg kg−1) administration decreases NFκB expression in circulating neutrophils. Metyrapone or RU-486 administration prior to MDMA treatment abrogated MDMA effects on neutrophil activity and NFκB expression, while 6-OHDA or ICI-118,551 administration did not. As MDMA treatment increased the plasmatic levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline, propranolol pre-treatment effects were also evaluated. Propranolol suppressed both MDMA-induced increase in corticosterone serum levels and its effects on neutrophil activity. In a L. monocytogenes experimental infection context, we showed that MDMA: induced myelosuppression by decreasing granulocyte-macrophage hematopoietic progenitors (CFU-GM) in the bone marrow but increased CFU-GM in the spleen; decreased circulating leukocytes and bone marrow cellularity and increased spleen cellularity; decreased pro-inflammatory cytokine (IL-12p70, TNF, IFN-γ, IL-6) and chemokine (MCP-1) production 24 h after the infection; increased the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines 72 h after infection and decreased IL-10 levels at all time points analyzed. It was proposed that MDMA immunosuppressive effects on neutrophil activity and host resistance to L monocytogenes rely on NFκB signaling, being mediated by HPA axis activity and corticosterone.


MDMA Ecstasy Neutrophils Neuroimmunomodulation Corticosterone Catecholamines Listeria monocytogenes 



The authors thank FAPESP and CNPq for financial support (FAPESP grant n° 2011/15115-2, 2009/51886-3 and CNPq grant n° 300764/2010-3). Viviane Ferraz-de-Paula is a FAPESP post-graduate fellow (grant n° 07/57614-0).

Conflict of Interest

All authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. Ferraz-de-Paula
    • 1
  • A. Ribeiro
    • 1
  • J. Souza-Queiroz
    • 2
  • M. L. Pinheiro
    • 1
  • J. F. Vecina
    • 2
  • D. P. M. Souza
    • 3
  • W. M. Quinteiro-Filho
    • 1
  • R. L. M. Moreau
    • 4
  • M. L. S. Queiroz
    • 2
  • J. Palermo-Neto
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Neuroimmunomodulation Research Group, Department of Pathology, School of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Department of Pharmacology/Center of Hematology and Hemotherapy, Faculty of Medical SciencesState University of Campinas (UNICAMP)CampinasBrazil
  3. 3.Tropical and Animal Science Program, School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal ScienceFederal University of Tocantins (UFT)TocantinsBrazil
  4. 4.Department of Clinical and Toxicological Analyses, School of Pharmaceutical SciencesUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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