The highly efficacious actions of N-desmethylclozapine at muscarinic receptors are unique and not a common property of either typical or atypical antipsychotic drugs: is M1 agonism a pre-requisite for mimicking clozapine's actions?

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2005 Apr;178(4):451-60. doi: 10.1007/s00213-004-2017-1. Epub 2004 Oct 13.


Rationale: Recent studies have suggested that the salutary actions of clozapine in schizophrenia may be due to selective activation of M(1) muscarinic receptors by clozapine and/or its major active metabolite N-desmethylclozapine.

Objective: We systematically tested this hypothesis by screening a large number of psychoactive compounds, including many atypical antipsychotic drugs, for agonist activity at cloned, human M(1), M(3) and M(5) muscarinic receptors.

Results: Only three of the 14 atypical antipsychotic drugs we tested were found to possess partial agonist actions at M(1) muscarinic receptors (fluperlapine, JL13, clozapine). A few additional miscellaneous compounds had a modest degree of M(1) agonist actions. Only carbachol and N-desmethylclozapine had appreciable M(3) muscarinic agonism at M(3) muscarinic receptors, although several were M(5) partial agonists including MK-212, N-desmethylclozapine and xanomeline.

Conclusion: Although M(1) muscarinic receptor-selective partial agonists have shown promise in some preclinical antipsychotic drug models, these studies indicate that it is unlikely that the salutary actions of clozapine and similar atypical antipsychotic drugs are mediated solely by M(1) muscarinic receptor activation. It is possible, however, that the M(1) agonism of N-desmethylclozapine contributes to the uniquely beneficial actions of clozapine. Thus, these results are consistent with the notion that a balanced degree of activity at multiple biogenic amine receptors, including M(1) muscarinic agonism, is responsible for the uniquely beneficial actions of clozapine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / classification
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology
  • CHO Cells
  • Clozapine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Clozapine / pharmacology
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Psychopharmacology / methods
  • Pyridines / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / classification*
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / genetics
  • Thiadiazoles / pharmacology


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Pyridines
  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Thiadiazoles
  • norclozapine
  • xanomeline
  • Clozapine