Methamphetamine induces ectopic expression of tyrosine hydroxylase and increases noradrenaline levels within the cerebellar cortex

M. Ferrucci, C. L. Busceti, S. L. Nori, G. Lazzeri, P. Bovolin, A. Falleni, F. Mastroiacovo, E. Pompili, L. Fumagalli, A. Paparelli, F. Fornai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Methamphetamine produces locomotor activation and typical stereotyped motor patterns, which are commonly related with increased catecholamine activity within the basal ganglia, including the dorsal and ventral striatum. Since the cerebellum is critical for movement control, and for learning of motor patterns, we hypothesized that cerebellar catecholamines might be a target of methamphetamine. To test this experimental hypothesis we injected methamphetamine into C57 Black mice at the doses of 5 mg/kg two or three times, 2 h apart. This dosing regimen is known to be toxic for striatal dopamine terminals. However, we found that in the cerebellum, methamphetamine increased the expression of the primary transcript of the tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) gene, followed by an increased expression of the TH protein. Increased TH was localized within Purkinje cells, where methamphetamine increased the number of TH-immunogold particles, and produced a change in the distribution of the enzyme by increasing the cytoplasmic percentage. Increased TH expression was accompanied by a slight increase in noradrenaline content. This effect was highly site-specific for the cortex of posterior vermal lobules, while only slight effects were detectable in the hemispheres. The present data indicate that the cerebellum does represent a target of methamphetamine, which produces specific and fine alterations of the catecholamine system involving synthesis, amount, and compartmentalization of TH as well as increased noradrenaline levels. This may be relevant for motor alterations induced by methamphetamine. In line with this, inherited cerebellar movement disorders in various animal species including humans are associated with increased TH immunoreactivity within intrinsic neurons of the same lobules of the cerebellar cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-884
Number of pages14
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 23 2007


  • catecholamines
  • cerebellum
  • drugs of abuse
  • movement disorders
  • Purkinje cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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