Dopamine receptor signaling and current and future antipsychotic drugs

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2012;(212):53-86. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-25761-2_3.


All currently efficacious antipsychotic drugs have as part of their mechanism the ability to attenuate some or all of the signaling through the dopamine D(2) receptor. More recently, the dopamine D(1) receptor has been hypothesized to be a promising target for the treatment of negative and/or cognitive aspects of schizophrenia that are not improved by current antipsychotics. Although cAMP has been presumed to be the primary messenger for signaling through the dopamine receptors, the last decade has unveiled a complexity that has provided exciting avenues for the future discovery of antipsychotic drugs (APDs). We review the signaling mechanisms of currently approved APDs at dopamine D(2) receptors, and note that aripiprazole is a compound that is clearly differentiated from other approved drugs. Although aripiprazole has been postulated to cause dopamine stabilization due to its partial D(2) agonist properties, a body of literature suggests that an alternative mechanism, functional selectivity, is of primary importance. Finally, we review the signaling at dopamine D(1) receptors, and the idea that drugs that activate D(1) receptors may have use as APDs for improving negative and cognitive symptoms. We address the current state of drug discovery in the D(1) area and its relationship to novel signaling mechanisms. Our conclusion is that although the first APD targeting dopamine receptors was discovered more than a half-century ago, recent research advances offer the possibility that novel and/or improved drugs will emerge in the next decade.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Dopamine / physiology*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / physiology
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / physiology
  • Schizophrenia / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenia / physiopathology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Type C Phospholipases / physiology


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Receptors, Dopamine
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Type C Phospholipases