Methamphetamine induces heme oxygenase-1 expression in cortical neurons and glia to prevent its toxicity

Ya Ni Huang, Ching Hsiang Wu, Tzu Chao Lin, Jia Yi Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


The impairment of cognitive and motor functions in humans and animals caused by methamphetamine (METH) administration underscores the importance of METH toxicity in cortical neurons. The heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) exerts a cytoprotective effect against various neuronal injures; however, it remains unclear whether HO-1 is involved in METH-induced toxicity. We used primary cortical neuron/glia cocultures to explore the role of HO-1 in METH-induced toxicity. Exposure of cultured cells to various concentrations of METH (0.1, 0.5, 1, 3, 5, and 10 mM) led to cytotoxicity in a concentration-dependent manner. A METH concentration of 5 mM, which caused 50% of neuronal death and glial activation, was chosen for subsequent experiments. RT-PCR and Western blot analysis revealed that METH significantly induced HO-1 mRNA and protein expression, both preceded cell death. Double and triple immunofluorescence staining further identified HO-1-positive cells as activated astrocytes, microglia, and viable neurons, but not dying neurons. Inhibition of the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway significantly blocked HO-1 induction by METH and aggravated METH neurotoxicity. Inhibition of HO activity using tin protoporphyrine IX significantly reduced HO activity and exacerbated METH neurotoxicity. However, prior induction of HO-1 using cobalt protoporphyrine IX partially protected neurons from METH toxicity. Taken together, our results suggest that induction of HO-1 by METH via the p38 signaling pathway may be protective, albeit insufficient to completely protect cortical neurons from METH toxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-326
Number of pages12
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Heme oxygenase-1
  • Methamphetamine
  • Neuron/glia cocultures
  • Neurotoxicity
  • p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology


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