ACS Chem. Biol. 17 (1) 147-158 [2022-01-21; online 2021-12-21]
Regional brain distribution and metabolism of neurotransmitters and their response to drug treatment are fundamentally important for understanding the central effects of neuroactive substances. We used matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging in combination with multivariate analysis to visualize in anatomical detail metabolic effects of aging and tacrine-mediated acetylcholinesterase inhibition on comprehensive neurotransmitter systems in multiple mouse brain regions of 12-week-old and 14-month-old mice. We detected age-related increases in 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetaldehyde and histamine, indicating oxidative stress and aging deficits in astrocytes. Tacrine had a significant impact on the metabolism of neurotransmitters in both age groups; predominantly, there was an increased norepinephrine turnover throughout the brain and decreased 3-methoxy tyramine, a marker for dopamine release, in the striatum. The striatal levels of histamine were only elevated after tacrine administration in the older animals. Our results demonstrated that tacrine is a multitarget and region-specific neuroactive agent, inducing age-specific responses. Although well-studied, the complete mechanisms of the action of tacrine are not fully understood, and the current findings reveal features that may help explain its treatment-related effectiveness and central side effects.