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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2010 Jul;35(8):1826-35. doi: 10.1038/npp.2010.50. Epub 2010 Apr 21.

The antipsychotics olanzapine, risperidone, clozapine, and haloperidol are D2-selective ex vivo but not in vitro.

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Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.


In a recent human [(11)C]-(+)-PHNO positron emission tomography study, olanzapine, clozapine, and risperidone occupied D2 receptors in striatum (STR), but, despite their similar in vitro D2 and D3 affinities, failed to occupy D3 receptors in globus pallidus. This study had two aims: (1) to characterize the regional D2/D3 pharmacology of in vitro and ex vivo [(3)H]-(+)-PHNO binding sites in rat brain and (2) to compare, using [(3)H]-(+)-PHNO autoradiography, the ex vivo and in vitro pharmacology of olanzapine, clozapine, risperidone, and haloperidol. Using the D3-selective drug SB277011, we found that ex vivo and in vitro [(3)H]-(+)-PHNO binding in STR is exclusively due to D2, whereas that in cerebellar lobes 9 and 10 is exclusively due to D3. Surprisingly, the D3 contribution to [(3)H]-(+)-PHNO binding in the islands of Calleja, ventral pallidum, substantia nigra, and nucleus accumbens was greater ex vivo than in vitro. Ex vivo, systemically administered olanzapine, risperidone, and haloperidol, at doses occupying approximately 80% D2, did not occupy D3 receptors. Clozapine, which also occupied approximately 80% of D2 receptors ex vivo, occupied a smaller percentage of D3 receptors than predicted by its in vitro pharmacology. Across brain regions, ex vivo occupancy by antipsychotics was inversely related to the D3 contribution to [(3)H]-(+)-PHNO binding. In contrast, in vitro occupancy was similar across brain regions, independent of the regional D3 contribution. These data indicate that at clinically relevant doses, olanzapine, clozapine, risperidone, and haloperidol are D2-selective ex vivo. This unforeseen finding suggests that their clinical effects cannot be attributed to D3 receptor blockade.

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