Aripiprazole, a novel atypical antipsychotic drug with a unique and robust pharmacology

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003 Aug;28(8):1400-11. doi: 10.1038/sj.npp.1300203. Epub 2003 May 21.


Atypical antipsychotic drugs have revolutionized the treatment of schizophrenia and related disorders. The current clinically approved atypical antipsychotic drugs are characterized by having relatively low affinities for D(2)-dopamine receptors and relatively high affinities for 5-HT(2A) serotonin receptors (5-HT, 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin)). Aripiprazole (OPC-14597) is a novel atypical antipsychotic drug that is reported to be a high-affinity D(2)-dopamine receptor partial agonist. We now provide a comprehensive pharmacological profile of aripiprazole at a large number of cloned G protein-coupled receptors, transporters, and ion channels. These data reveal a number of interesting and potentially important molecular targets for which aripiprazole has affinity. Aripiprazole has highest affinity for h5-HT(2B)-, hD(2L)-, and hD(3)-dopamine receptors, but also has significant affinity (5-30 nM) for several other 5-HT receptors (5-HT(1A), 5-HT(2A), 5-HT(7)), as well as alpha(1A)-adrenergic and hH(1)-histamine receptors. Aripiprazole has less affinity (30-200 nM) for other G protein-coupled receptors, including the 5-HT(1D), 5-HT(2C), alpha(1B)-, alpha(2A)-, alpha(2B)-, alpha(2C)-, beta(1)-, and beta(2)-adrenergic, and H(3)-histamine receptors. Functionally, aripiprazole is an inverse agonist at 5-HT(2B) receptors and displays partial agonist actions at 5-HT(2A), 5-HT(2C), D(3), and D(4) receptors. Interestingly, we also discovered that the functional actions of aripiprazole at cloned human D(2)-dopamine receptors are cell-type selective, and that a range of actions (eg agonism, partial agonism, antagonism) at cloned D(2)-dopamine receptors are possible depending upon the cell type and function examined. This mixture of functional actions at D(2)-dopamine receptors is consistent with the hypothesis proposed by Lawler et al (1999) that aripiprazole has "functionally selective" actions. Taken together, our results support the hypothesis that the unique actions of aripiprazole in humans are likely a combination of "functionally selective" activation of D(2) (and possibly D(3))-dopamine receptors, coupled with important interactions with selected other biogenic amine receptors--particularly 5-HT receptor subtypes (5-HT(1A), 5-HT(2A)).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Aripiprazole
  • Cyclic AMP / biosynthesis
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Piperazines / pharmacology*
  • Potassium Channels / physiology
  • Quinolones / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Dopamine / physiology
  • Receptors, Serotonin / physiology


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Piperazines
  • Potassium Channels
  • Quinolones
  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Aripiprazole
  • Cyclic AMP