New roles for dopamine D 2 and D 3 receptors in pancreatic beta cell insulin secretion

Mol Psychiatry. 2020 Sep;25(9):2070-2085. doi: 10.1038/s41380-018-0344-6. Epub 2019 Jan 9.


Although long-studied in the central nervous system, there is increasing evidence that dopamine (DA) has important roles in the periphery including in metabolic regulation. Insulin-secreting pancreatic β-cells express the machinery for DA synthesis and catabolism, as well as all five DA receptors. In these cells, DA functions as a negative regulator of glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS), which is mediated by DA D2-like receptors including D2 (D2R) and D3 (D3R) receptors. However, the fundamental mechanisms of DA synthesis, storage, release, and signaling in pancreatic β-cells and their functional relevance in vivo remain poorly understood. Here, we assessed the roles of the DA precursor L-DOPA in β-cell DA synthesis and release in conjunction with the signaling mechanisms underlying DA's inhibition of GSIS. Our results show that the uptake of L-DOPA is essential for establishing intracellular DA stores in β-cells. Glucose stimulation significantly enhances L-DOPA uptake, leading to increased DA release and GSIS reduction in an autocrine/paracrine manner. Furthermore, D2R and D3R act in combination to mediate dopaminergic inhibition of GSIS. Transgenic knockout mice in which β-cell D2R or D3R expression is eliminated exhibit diminished DA secretion during glucose stimulation, suggesting a new mechanism where D2-like receptors modify DA release to modulate GSIS. Lastly, β-cell-selective D2R knockout mice exhibit marked postprandial hyperinsulinemia in vivo. These results reveal that peripheral D2R and D3R receptors play important roles in metabolism through their inhibitory effects on GSIS. This opens the possibility that blockade of peripheral D2-like receptors by drugs including antipsychotic medications may significantly contribute to the metabolic disturbances observed clinically.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dopamine* / metabolism
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3 / genetics
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3 / metabolism


  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • Dopamine