Impact of membrane lipid polyunsaturation on dopamine D2 receptor ligand binding and signaling

Mol Psychiatry. 2023 May;28(5):1960-1969. doi: 10.1038/s41380-022-01928-6. Epub 2023 Jan 6.


Increasing evidence supports a relationship between lipid metabolism and mental health. In particular, the biostatus of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) correlates with some symptoms of psychiatric disorders, as well as the efficacy of pharmacological treatments. Recent findings highlight a direct association between brain PUFA levels and dopamine transmission, a major neuromodulatory system implicated in the etiology of psychiatric symptoms. However, the mechanisms underlying this relationship are still unknown. Here we demonstrate that membrane enrichment in the n-3 PUFA docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), potentiates ligand binding to the dopamine D2 receptor (D2R), suggesting that DHA acts as an allosteric modulator of this receptor. Molecular dynamics simulations confirm that DHA has a high preference for interaction with the D2R and show that membrane unsaturation selectively enhances the conformational dynamics of the receptor around its second intracellular loop. We find that membrane unsaturation spares G protein activity but potentiates the recruitment of β-arrestin in cells. Furthermore, in vivo n-3 PUFA deficiency blunts the behavioral effects of two D2R ligands, quinpirole and aripiprazole. These results highlight the importance of membrane unsaturation for D2R activity and provide a putative mechanism for the ability of PUFAs to enhance antipsychotic efficacy.