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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003 Oct;28(10):1770-7.

Inhibitory action of clozapine on rat ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons following increased levels of endogenous kynurenic acid.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. Sophie.Erhardt@fyfa.ki.se


The mode of action by which the atypical antipsychotic drug clozapine exerts its superior efficacy to ameliorate both positive and negative symptoms is still unknown. In the present in vivo electrophysiological study, we investigate the effects of haloperidol (a typical antipsychotic drug) and clozapine on ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) neurons in a situation of hyperdopaminergic activity in order to mimic tentatively a condition similar to that seen in schizophrenia. Increased DA transmission was induced by elevating endogenous levels of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor and alpha7(*) nicotinic receptor antagonist kynurenic acid (KYNA; by means of PNU 156561A, 40 mg /kg, i.v.). In control rats, i.v. administered haloperidol (0.05-0.8 mg/kg) or clozapine (1.25-10 mg/kg) was associated with increased firing rate and burst firing activity of VTA DA neurons. However, in rats displaying hyperdopaminergia (induced by elevated levels of KYNA), the effects of clozapine on VTA DA neurons were converted into pure inhibitory responses, including decrease in burst firing activity. In contrast, haloperidol still produced an excitatory action on VTA DA neurons in rats with elevated levels of endogenous brain KYNA. The results of the present study suggest that clozapine facilitates or inhibits VTA DA neurotransmission, depending on brain concentration of KYNA. Such an effect of clozapine may be related to its unique effect in also ameliorating negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

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