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Mech Ageing Dev. 2001 Nov;122(16):2071-83.

Age-related changes of dopamine receptors in the rat hippocampus: a light microscope autoradiography study.

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  • 1Sezione di Anatomia Umana, Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Medicina Sperimentale, Universit√† di Camerino, Via Scalzino, 3, 62032, Camerino, Italy.


Hippocampus is a brain region involved in learning and memory and is particularly sensitive to ageing. It is supplied with a dopaminergic innervation arising from the midbrain, which is part of the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway. Dysfunction of the dopaminergic mesolimbic system is probably involved in the pathophysiology of psychosis and behavioural disturbances occurring in the elderly. The present study was designed to assess the density and localisation of dopamine D1- and D2-like receptor subtypes in the hippocampus of male Sprague-Dawley rats aged 3 months (young), 12 months (adult) and 24 months (old). Dopamine D1-like receptors, labelled by [3H]-SCH 23390, in young rats displayed a dentate gyrus-CA1 subfield gradient. The expression was increased in the cell body of dentate gyrus, CA4 and CA3 subfield of old rats compared to younger cohorts, as well as in the neuropil of dentate gyrus. A decreased density of dopamine D1-like receptors was found in the stratum oriens of CA1 and CA3 subfields. Dopamine D2-like receptors, labelled using [3H]-spiperone as radioligand, were expressed rather homogeneously throughout different subfields of the hippocampus. In old rats, the density of dopamine D2-like receptors was decreased in the dentate gyrus, unchanged in the CA4 and CA1 subfields and increased in the CA3 subfield. The above results indicate the occurrence of inhomogeneous changes in the density of dopamine D1- and D2-like receptors in specific portions of hippocampus of old rats. These findings support the hypothesis of an involvement of dopaminergic system in behavioural abnormalities or psychosis occurring in ageing.

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