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Determination of the role of calcium on instability of neurotoxic metabolite of ecstasy by HPTLC-mass

Bardia Jamali1, Yalda Hosseinzadeh Ardakani1, Mohammad-Reza Rouini1, Alireza Foroumadi2, Salimeh Amidi3, Vahid Hossein Zadeh Aghdam4 and Farzad Kobarfard3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmaceutics, Biopharmaceutics and Pharmacokinetics Division, Faculty of Pharmacy, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 Drug design and Development Research Center, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

3 Department of Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

4 Central Research Laboratories, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

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DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 2013, 21:9  doi:10.1186/2008-2231-21-9

Published: 17 January 2013



Ecstasy is one of the popular illicit drugs in the world and its usage has been recently increased in Iran. This compound can destroy the serotonergic neurons and produces cognitive and psychopathology diseases. 3,4-dihydroxymethamphetamine (HHMA) which is the main metabolite of this compound, seems to be responsible for this effect. However, no consensus has been reached among the researchers about its role. This disagreement between the researches may be due to failure in determination of HHMA as free form in physiological fluids. In this study, the stability of this crucial metabolite of ecstasy was examined in different mediums.


The stability of HHMA was studied in the perfusion medium and water at 100 and 10 ng/mL concentrations. Moreover, the effect of temperature (0–25°C), pH (3–10), calcium chloride (0–150 g/L) and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) on the stability of HHMA was also examined.


Our result suggested that the free form of HHMA could be degraded in the perfusion medium. The rate of this degradation has direct proportion to temperature (at 25°C = 0.037 min-1 and at 0°C = 0.002 min-1). Calcium chloride and sodium bicarbonate are two responsible components in this instability. Moreover, the alkaline pHs and increasing the shaking time can accelerate this effect. Although, while degradation was prevented at pH=3, EDTA could only reduce this rate about 30%.


Calcium cation can act as an accelerator of HHMA degradation. Therefore, the perfusion medium should not contain Ca2+ and the pH of medium is better to be adjusted at acidic range. Since, the internal cellular source of calcium is endoplasmic reticulum system, it can be assumed that, this cation may change HHMA and dopamine to reactive compounds that can bind covalently to the cysteinyl group of biological compounds and damage cellular components.

HHMA; HPTLC-MS; Stability; Calcium chloride; Neurotoxicity