Immunomodulating properties of ecstasy, MDMA

Roberta Pacifici, Piergiorgio Zuccaro, Magi Farré, Simona Pichini, Simonetta Di Carlo, Pere N. Roset, Jordi Ortuño, Jordi Segura, Cándido Hernández-López, Rafael De La Torre

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In vitro exposure to ecstasy (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, MDMA) alters some immune parameters such as T-cell regulatory function, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte activity, natural killer cell activity and macrophage function. Administration of MDMA in rats produces a suppression of lympho-proliferation response and a decrease in circulating lymphocytes, accompanied by an increase in plasma corticosterone. It was postulated a direct action of MDMA on lymphocytes or rather an indirect action mediated by the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA-AXIS) and/or the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Acute MDMA treatment effected on healthy-volunteers produces an immune dysfunction associated with pharmaceutical characteristics and so with MDMA plasma concentrations. There is a decrease in CD4+ T-cells and functional responsiveness of lymphocytes, while percentage of natural killer cells increases. A contemporany rise of cortisol plasma concentrations supports the hypothesis of MDMA-induced release of corticotrophin-releasing factor from the hypothalamus and subsequent HPA-axis and SNS activation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-75
JournalAnnali dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanita
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2000


  • Animal model
  • Ecstasy
  • Human
  • Immune dysfunction


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