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Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2015 May;69(5):243-58. doi: 10.1111/pcn.12242. Epub 2014 Nov 6.

Psychopharmacology of atypical antipsychotic drugs: From the receptor binding profile to neuroprotection and neurogenesis.

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Department of Psychiatry, Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, Sapporo, Japan.


The original definition of atypical antipsychotic drugs (APD) was drugs that are effective against positive symptoms in schizophrenia with no or little extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS). However, atypical APD have been reported to be more effective for cognitive dysfunction and negative symptoms in schizophrenia than typical APD, which expands the definition of 'atypicality'. This article provides a critical review of the pharmacology of atypical APD, especially from the viewpoint of receptor binding profiles and neurotransmitter regulations as well as neuroprotection and neurogenesis. A variety of serotonin (5-HT) receptors, such as 5-HT2A / 2C , 5-HT1A , 5-HT6 and 5-HT7 receptors, may contribute to the mechanisms of action of 'atypicality'. The dopaminergic modulations, including a low affinity for dopamine D2 receptors and a partial D2 receptor agonistic action, and glutamatergic regulations may also be involved in the pharmacological backgrounds of 'atypicality'. Atypical APD, but not typical APD, may facilitate cortical neuroprotection and hippocampal neurogenesis, which might be a part of the action mechanisms of atypical APD. The facilitation of cortical neuroprotection and hippocampal neurogenesis induced by atypical APD might be mediated by an increase in the Ser9 phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β). The stimulation of 5-HT1A receptors and/or the blockade of 5-HT2 receptors, which is characteristic of atypical APD, might increase Ser9 phosphorylation of GSK-3β. Moreover, atypical APD increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels. BDNF increases Ser9 phosphorylation of GSK-3β and has neuroprotective and neurogenic effects, as in the case of atypical APD. These findings suggest that GSK-3β might play a role in the action mechanisms of atypical APD, in both the 5-HT-dependent and BDNF-dependent mechanisms.


atypicality; brain-derived neurotrophic factor; dopamine; glycogen synthase kinase-3β; serotonin

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