Effect of Chronic Methylphenidate Treatment in a Female Experimental Model of Parkinsonism

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Methylphenidate (MPH) is the most commonly prescribed drug for the treatment of ADHD in males and females. However, a majority of previous studies investigated the effect of MPH in only males, and little is known regarding consequences of female exposure to MPH. This is unfortunate because the few studies that have been conducted indicate that females have a greater sensitivity to MPH. Previous research in male mice has shown that chronic exposure to MPH causes dopaminergic neurons within the nigrostriatal pathway to be more sensitive to the Parkinsonian toxin 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP). However, estrogen has been shown to protect dopaminergic neurons from MPTP neurotoxicity. Therefore, in this study, we test the hypothesis that chronic MPH exposure in female mice will render dopaminergic neurons in the nigrostriatal pathway more sensitive to MPTP, and that estrogen may play a protective role. Interestingly, proestrus females exhibited greater sensitivity to MPTP, with significantly reduced dopaminergic neurons in the SN and significant increases in DA quinone production. Chronic MPH exposure contributed to GSH depletion, but surprisingly, it did not increase dopamine quinone levels or dopaminergic cell loss. There were no significant differences in anestrus animals, with the exception of a depletion in GSH seen when animals received chronic high-dose (10 mg/kg) MPH followed by MPTP. Thus, estrogen may actually sensitize neurons to MPTP in this model, and chronic MPH may contribute to GSH depletion within the striatum. This study provides insight into how chronic psychostimulant use may affect males and females differently.