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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2010 Aug;13(7):891-903. doi: 10.1017/S1461145709990794. Epub 2009 Oct 19.

Adjunctive alpha2-adrenoceptor blockade enhances the antipsychotic-like effect of risperidone and facilitates cortical dopaminergic and glutamatergic, NMDA receptor-mediated transmission.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Section of Neuropsychopharmacology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Compared to both first- and second-generation antipsychotic drugs (APDs), clozapine shows superior efficacy in treatment-resistant schizophrenia. In contrast to most APDs clozapine possesses high affinity for alpha2-adrenoceptors, and clinical and preclinical studies provide evidence that the alpha2-adrenoceptor antagonist idazoxan enhances the antipsychotic efficacy of typical D2 receptor antagonists as well as olanzapine. Risperidone has lower affinity for alpha2-adrenoceptors than clozapine but higher than most other APDs. Here we examined, in rats, the effects of adding idazoxan to risperidone on antipsychotic effect using the conditioned avoidance response (CAR) test, extrapyramidal side-effect (EPS) liability using the catalepsy test, brain dopamine efflux using in-vivo microdialysis in freely moving animals, cortical N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-mediated transmission using intracellular electrophysiological recording in vitro, and ex-vivo autoradiography to assess the in-vivo alpha2A- and alpha2C-adrenoceptor occupancies by risperidone. The dose of risperidone needed for antipsychotic effect in the CAR test was approximately 0.4 mg/kg, which produced 11% and 17% in-vivo receptor occupancy at alpha2A- and alpha2C-adrenoceptors, respectively. Addition of idazoxan (1.5 mg/kg) to a low dose of risperidone (0.25 mg/kg) enhanced the suppression of CAR, but did not enhance catalepsy. Both cortical dopamine release and NMDA receptor-mediated responses were enhanced. These data propose that the therapeutic effect of risperidone in schizophrenia can be enhanced and its EPS liability reduced by adjunctive treatment with an alpha2-adrenoceptor antagonist, and generally support the notion that the potent alpha2-adrenoceptor antagonistic action of clozapine may be highly important for its unique efficacy in schizophrenia.

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