A positron emission tomography study of quetiapine in schizophrenia: a preliminary finding of an antipsychotic effect with only transiently high dopamine D2 receptor occupancy

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2000 Jun;57(6):553-9. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.57.6.553.


Background: Quetiapine is a new atypical antipsychotic medication. As such, relatively little has been published regarding its in vivo effects at the dopamine type 2 (D2) and serotonin type 2a (5-HT2a) receptor systems. The following study was undertaken to explore these effects across the clinical dose range and relate this information to its clinical profile.

Methods: Twelve patients with schizophrenia were randomly assigned to doses of 150 to 600 mg/d (n=3, at 150, 300, 450, and 600 mg/d) of quetiapine. After 3 weeks of treatment, D2 and 5-HT2a occupancy were measured using positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, 12 to 14 hours after the last dose. Clinical efficacy and adverse effect ratings were obtained at baseline, at the time of PET scanning, and at 12 weeks. Two additional patients were included to examine the effects of the drug 2 to 3 hours after last dose.

Results: Quetiapine was an effective antipsychotic and improved the extrapyramidal symptoms and prolactin level elevation noted at baseline. It achieved these results with minimal (0%-27%) D2 occupancy 12 hours after the last dose. Study of the additional subjects revealed that quetiapine does give rise to transiently high (58%-64%) D2 occupancy 2 to 3 hours after a single dose that then decreases to minimal levels in 12 hours.

Conclusions: Quetiapine shows a transiently high D2 occupancy, which decreases to very low levels by the end of the dosing interval. Quetiapine's low D2 occupancy can explain its freedom from extrapyramidal symptoms and prolactin level elevation. The data suggest that transient D2 occupancy may be sufficient for its antipsychotic effect. Future studies controlling for nonpharmacological effects as well as activities on other receptors will be necessary to confirm this suggestion.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / chemically induced
  • Basal Ganglia Diseases / epidemiology
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Dibenzothiazepines / adverse effects
  • Dibenzothiazepines / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dibenzothiazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Dopamine D2 Receptor Antagonists
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Quetiapine Fumarate
  • Raclopride
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Serotonin / drug effects
  • Receptors, Serotonin / metabolism
  • Schizophrenia / diagnostic imaging
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy*
  • Schizophrenia / metabolism
  • Serotonin Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Serotonin Antagonists / pharmacokinetics
  • Serotonin Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Carbon Radioisotopes
  • Dibenzothiazepines
  • Dopamine D2 Receptor Antagonists
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • Quetiapine Fumarate
  • Raclopride
  • Prolactin