Dopamine D2 and serotonin 5-HT1A receptor interaction in the context of the effects of antipsychotics - in vitro studies

J Neurochem. 2016 May;137(4):549-60. doi: 10.1111/jnc.13582. Epub 2016 Mar 23.


The serotonin 5-HT1A receptor (5-HT1 A R) and dopamine D2 receptor (D2 R) have been implicated as important sites of action in antipsychotics. Several lines of evidence indicate the key role of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) heteromers in pathophysiology of schizophrenia and highlight these complexes as novel drug targets. Because heterodimers can form only on those cells co-expressing constituent receptors, they present a target of high pharmacological specificity in the context of biochemical effects induced by antipsychotic drugs. In studies conducted in the HEK 293 cell line, we demonstrated that 5-HT1 A R and D2 R are able to form constitutive heterodimers, and antipsychotic drugs (clozapine, olanzapine, aripiprazole, and lurasidone) enhanced this process, with clozapine being most effective. Various functional tests (cAMP and IP1 as well as ERK activation) indicated that the drugs had different effects on signal transduction by the heteromer. Interestingly, co-incubation of heterodimer-expressing HEK 293 cells with clozapine and the 5-HT1 A R agonist 8-OH DPAT potentiated post-synaptic effects, especially with respect to ERK activation. Our results indicate that the D2 -5-HT1A complex possesses biochemical, pharmacological, and functional properties distinct from those of mono- and homomers. This result has implications for the development of improved pharmacotherapy for schizophrenia or other disorders (activating the heteromer might be cognitive enhancing, since it is expressed in frontal cortex) through the specific targeting of heterodimers. We reported the constitutive formation of D2 -5-HT1A heteromers, which possess biochemical, pharmacological, and functional properties distinct from those of mono- and homomers, as revealed by antipsychotics action. We also showed that these two receptors are co-expressed in mouse cortical neurons; therefore their potential to heterodimerize may comprise an essential target for the development of novel strategies for schizophrenia treatment.

Keywords: GPCRs; antipsychotics; cell signaling; heteromerization; schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / metabolism*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Protein Binding / physiology
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / agonists
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism*


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • DRD2 protein, human
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1A