Early methylphenidate administration to young rats causes a persistent reduction in the density of striatal dopamine transporters

by Moll GH, Hause S, Ruther E, Rothenberger A, Huether G.
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
University of Gottingen, Germany.
J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol 2001 Spring;11(1):15-24


Methylphenidate is widely and effectively used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder during early childhood and adolescence, but until now possible effects of this treatment on brain development and the maturation of monoaminergic systems have not been investigated systematically. This experimental animal study describes the effects of methylphenidate administration (2 mg/kg/day) for 2 weeks to very young (prepubertal) and somewhat older (postpubertal) rats on the densities of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine transporters in the striatum and in the midbrain. As shown by ligand-binding-assays, the K(D) values of all three transporters were unaffected by this treatment. No alterations were found for the Bmax values of [3H]-paroxetine and [3H]-nisoxetine binding, but the density of dopamine transporters (Bmax values of [3H]-GBR binding) in the striatum (but not in the midbrain) was significantly reduced after early methylphenidate administration (by 25% at day 45), and this decline reached almost 50% at adulthood (day 70), that is, long after termination of the treatment. This is the first empirical demonstration of long-lasting changes in the development of the central dopaminergic system caused by the administration of methylphenidate during early juvenile life.