Bioenergetics failure and oxidative stress in brain stem mediates cardiovascular collapse associated with fatal methamphetamine intoxication

Faith C.H. Li, Jiin Cherng Yen, Samuel H.H. Chan, Alice Y.W. Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Whereas sudden death, most often associated with cardiovascular collapse, occurs in abusers of the psychostimulant methamphetamine (METH), the underlying mechanism is much less understood. The demonstration that successful resuscitation of an arrested heart depends on maintained functionality of the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM), which is responsible for the maintenance of stable blood pressure, suggests that failure of brain stem cardiovascular regulation, rather than the heart, holds the key to cardiovascular collapse. We tested the hypothesis that cessation of brain stem cardiovascular regulation because of a loss of functionality in RVLM mediated by bioenergetics failure and oxidative stress underlies the cardiovascular collapse elicited by lethal doses of METH. Methodology/Principal Findings: Survival rate, cardiovascular responses and biochemical or morphological changes in RVLM induced by intravenous administration of METH in Sprague-Dawley rats were investigated. High doses of METH induced significant mortality within 20 min that paralleled concomitant the collapse of arterial pressure or heart rate and loss of functionality in RVLM. There were concurrent increases in the concentration of METH in serum and ventrolateral medulla, along with tissue anoxia, cessation of microvascular perfusion and necrotic cell death in RVLM. Furthermore, mitochondrial respiratory chain enzyme activity or electron transport capacity and ATP production in RVLM were reduced, and mitochondria-derived superoxide anion level was augmented. All those detrimental physiological and biochemical events were reversed on microinjection into RVLM of a mobile electron carrier in the mitochondrial respiratory chain, coenzyme Q10; a mitochondria-targeted antioxidant and superoxide anion scavenger, Mito-TEMPO; or an oxidative stress-induced necrotic cell death inhibitor, IM-54. Conclusion: We conclude that sustained anoxia and cessation of local blood flow that leads to bioenergetics failure and oxidative stress because of mitochondrial dysfunction, leading to acute necrotic cell death in RVLM underpins cardiovascular collapse elicited by lethal doses of METH.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere30589
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jan 19

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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