The current dopamine (DA) hypothesis of schizophrenia postulates striatal hyperdopaminergia and cortical hypodopaminergia. Although partial agonists at DA D2 receptors (D2Rs), like aripiprazole, were developed to simultaneously target both phenomena, they do not effectively improve cortical dysfunction. In this study, we investigate the potential for newly developed β-arrestin2 (βarr2)-biased D2R partial agonists to simultaneously target hyper- and hypodopaminergia. Using neuron-specific βarr2-KO mice, we show that the antipsychotic-like effects of a βarr2-biased D2R ligand are driven through both striatal antagonism and cortical agonism of D2R-βarr2 signaling. Furthermore, βarr2-biased D2R agonism enhances firing of cortical fast-spiking interneurons. This enhanced cortical agonism of the biased ligand can be attributed to a lack of G-protein signaling and elevated expression of βarr2 and G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) kinase 2 in the cortex versus the striatum. Therefore, we propose that βarr2-biased D2R ligands that exert region-selective actions could provide a path to develop more effective antipsychotic therapies.
Keywords: antipsychotics; arrestin; biased signaling; dopamine D2R; fast-spiking interneurons.