Beyond Dopamine Receptor Antagonism: New Targets for Schizophrenia Treatment and Prevention

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Apr 25;22(9):4467. doi: 10.3390/ijms22094467.


Treatment of schizophrenia (SCZ) historically relies on the use of antipsychotic drugs to treat psychosis, with all of the currently available antipsychotics acting through the antagonism of dopamine D2 receptors. Although antipsychotics reduce psychotic symptoms in many patients, they induce numerous undesirable effects and are not effective against negative and cognitive symptoms. These highlight the need to develop new drugs to treat SCZ. An advanced understanding of the circuitry of SCZ has pointed to pathological origins in the excitation/inhibition balance in regions such as the hippocampus, and restoring function in this region, particularly as a means to compensate for parvalbumin (PV) interneuron loss and resultant hippocampal hyperactivity, may be a more efficacious approach to relieve a broad range of SCZ symptoms. Other targets, such as cholinergic receptors and the trace amine-associated receptor 1 (TAAR1), have also shown some promise for the treatment of SCZ. Importantly, assessing efficacy of novel compounds must take into consideration treatment history of the patient, as preclinical studies suggest prior antipsychotic treatment may interfere with the efficacy of these novel agents. However, while novel therapeutic targets may be more effective in treating SCZ, a more effective approach would be to prevent the transition to SCZ in susceptible individuals. A focus on stress, which has been shown to be a predisposing factor in risk for SCZ, is a possible avenue that has shown promise in preclinical studies. Therefore, therapeutic approaches based on our current understanding of the circuitry of SCZ and its etiology are likely to enable development of more effective therapeutic interventions for this complex disorder.

Keywords: antipsychotics; dopamine; glutamate; hippocampus; parvalbumin; psychosis; stress.

Publication types

  • Review