Striatal dopamine D1 and D2 receptors are differentially regulated following buprenorphine or methadone treatment

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 May;232(9):1527-33. doi: 10.1007/s00213-014-3785-x. Epub 2014 Oct 31.


Rationale: Chronic administration of morphine induces adaptations in neurotransmission system such as the dopamine pathway, and these modifications could be influenced by the drug administration pattern. Methadone and buprenorphine are the two main opioid substitution therapies, and despite their protracted use in humans, no study has investigated their ability to regulate dopamine system after chronic exposure/withdrawal.

Objectives: We evaluated the consequences of two administration patterns of methadone and buprenorphine on striatal dopamine D1 (D1R) and D2 (D2R) receptor levels.

Methods: Mice were treated with escalating doses of methadone or buprenorphine for 5 days either once daily (binge) or three times a day (TTD). D1R and D2R density in striatum was measured by autoradiography using [(3)H]-SCH23390 and [(3)H]-raclopride, respectively, at 1 (WD1), 14 (WD14), and 35 (WD35) days after the last opioid injection.

Results: A downregulation of D1R was observed upon TTD administration of buprenorphine and binge methadone treatment while an increase of those receptor levels was detected both with binge buprenorphine and TTD methadone treatments. Concerning the D2R, we rather measured an early or late downregulation with both agonists and administration patterns.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrated that methadone and buprenorphine were able to differentially regulate dopamine receptor density depending on the withdrawal period and the administration pattern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Animals
  • Buprenorphine / administration & dosage*
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects*
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Male
  • Methadone / administration & dosage*
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Buprenorphine
  • Methadone