Distinct Physiological Effects of Dopamine D4 Receptors on Prefrontal Cortical Pyramidal Neurons and Fast-Spiking Interneurons

Cereb Cortex. 2016 Jan;26(1):180-91. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhu190. Epub 2014 Aug 21.


Dopamine D4 receptor (D4R), which is strongly linked to neuropsychiatric disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia, is highly expressed in pyramidal neurons and GABAergic interneurons in prefrontal cortex (PFC). In this study, we examined the impact of D4R on the excitability of these 2 neuronal populations. We found that D4R activation decreased the frequency of spontaneous action potentials (sAPs) in PFC pyramidal neurons, whereas it induced a transient increase followed by a decrease of sAP frequency in PFC parvalbumin-positive (PV+) interneurons. D4R activation also induced distinct effects in both types of PFC neurons on spontaneous excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic currents, which drive the generation of sAP. Moreover, dopamine substantially decreased sAP frequency in PFC pyramidal neurons, but markedly increased sAP frequency in PV+ interneurons, and both effects were partially mediated by D4R activation. In the phencyclidine model of schizophrenia, the decreasing effect of D4R on sAP frequency in both types of PFC neurons was attenuated, whereas the increasing effect of D4R on sAP in PV+ interneurons was intact. These results suggest that D4R activation elicits distinct effects on synaptically driven excitability in PFC projection neurons versus fast-spiking interneurons, which are differentially altered in neuropsychiatric disorder-related conditions.

Keywords: D4 receptors; dopamine; interneurons; prefrontal cortex; synaptically driven excitability.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Dopamine / pharmacology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D4 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Dopamine D4 / metabolism*
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Receptors, Dopamine D4
  • Dopamine