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Neuropsychopharmacology. 1997 Feb;16(2):93-110; discussion 111-35.

Atypical neuroleptics have low affinity for dopamine D2 receptors or are selective for D4 receptors.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Toronto, Canada.


This review examines the possible receptor basis of the atypical action of those atypical antipsychotic drugs that elicit low levels of Parkinsonism. Such an examination requires consistent and accurate dissociation constants for the antipsychotic drugs at the relevant dopamine and serotonin receptors. It has long been known, however, that the dissociation constant of a given antipsychotic drug at the dopamine D2 receptor varies between laboratories. Although such variation depends on several factors, it has recently been recognized that the radioligand used to measure the competition between the antipsychotic drug and the radioligand is an important variable. The present review summarizes information on this radioligand dependence. In general, a radioligand of low solubility in the membrane (i.e., low tissue:buffer partition) results in a low value for the antipsychotic dissociation constant when the drug competes with the radioligand. Hence, by first obtaining the antipsychotic dissociation constants using different radioligands of different solubility in the membrane, one can then extrapolate the data to low or "zero" ligand solubility. The extrapolated value represents the radioligand-independent dissociation constant of the antipsychotic. These values are here given for dopamine D2 and D4 receptors, as well as for serotonin 5-HT2A receptors. These values, moreover, agree with the dissociation constant directly obtained with the radioactive antipsychotic itself. For example, clozapine revealed a radioligand-independent value of 1.6 nM at the dopamine D4 receptor, agreeing with the value directly measured with [3H]-clozapine at D4. However, because clozapine competes with endogenous dopamine, the in vivo concentration of clozapine (to occupy dopamine D4 receptors) can be derived to be about 13 nM, agreeing with the value of 12 to 20 nM in the plasma water or spinal fluid observed in treated patients. The atypical neuroleptics remoxipride, clozapine, perlapine, seroquel, and melperone had low affinity for the dopamine D2 receptor (radioligand-independent dissociation constants of 30 to 90 nM). Such low affinity makes these latter five drugs readily displaceable by high levels of endogenous dopamine in the caudate or putamen. Most typical neuroleptics have radioligand-independent values of 0.3 to 5 nM at dopamine D2 receptors, making them more resistant to displacement by endogenous dopamine. Finally, a relation was found between the neuroleptic doses for rat catalepsy and the D2:D4 ratio of the radioligand-independent K values for these two receptors. Thus, the atypical neuroleptics appear to fall into two groups, those that have a low affinity for dopamine D2 receptors and those that are selective for dopamine D4 receptors.

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