Methylphenidate is a psychostimulant that inhibits the neuronal dopamine transporter. In addition, methylphenidate has the intriguing ability to provide neuroprotection from the neurotoxic effects of methamphetamine and perhaps also Parkinsons disease; both of which may likely involve the abnormal accumulation of cytoplasmic dopamine inside dopaminergic neurons and the resulting formation of dopamine-associated reactive oxygen species. As delineated in this review, the neuroprotective effects of methylphenidate are due, at least in part, to its ability to attenuate or prevent this abnormal cytoplasmic dopamine accumulation through several possible neuropharmacological mechanisms. These may include 1) direct interactions between methylphenidate and the neuronal dopamine transporter which may attenuate or prevent the entry of methamphetamine into dopaminergic neurons and may also decrease the synthesis of cytoplasmic dopamine through a D2 receptor-mediated signal cascade process, and 2) indirect effects upon the functioning of the vesicular monoamine transporter-2 which may increase vesicular dopamine sequestration through both vesicle trafficking and the kinetic upregulation of the vesicular monoamine transporter-2 protein. Understanding these neuropharmacological mechanisms of methylphenidate neuroprotection may provide important insights into the physiologic regulation of dopaminergic systems as well as the pathophysiology of a variety of disorders involving abnormal dopamine disposition ranging from substance abuse to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinsons disease.
Keywords: Dopamine, dopamine transporter, methamphetamine, methylphenidate, neuroprotection, neurotoxicity, Parkinson's disease, vesicular monoamine transperter-2
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