Dopamine receptors and brain function

Neuropharmacology. 1996;35(11):1503-19. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3908(96)00100-1.


In the central nervous system (CNS), dopamine is involved in the control of locomotion, cognition, affect and neuroendocrine secretion. These actions of dopamine are mediated by five different receptor subtypes, which are members of the large G-protein coupled receptor superfamily. The dopamine receptor subtypes are divided into two major subclasses: the D1-like and D2-like receptors, which typically couple to Gs and Gj mediated transduction systems. In the CNS, the various receptor subtypes display specific anatomical distributions, with D1-like receptors being mainly post-synaptic and D2-like receptors being both pre- and post-synaptic. D1 and D2 dopamine receptors, the most abundant subtypes in the CNS, appear to be expressed largely in distinct neurons. Substance P and dynorphin, which are expressed in D1 receptor-containing neurons, as well as pre-proenkephalin in D2 receptor-containing neurons, have been used as monitors of dopaminergic activity in the CNS. Expression of immediate early genes, in particular fos, has also been found to correlate with dopaminergic transmission. Dopamine released from the hypothalamus controls the synthesis and secretion of prolactin from the anterior pituitary via D2 dopamine receptors. As yet none of the dopamine receptor subtypes have been associated with the etiology of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. However, the recent characterization of D3 and D4 receptors which are, interestingly, expressed in areas of the CNS mediating cognition and affect or showing increased affinity for certain neuroleptics, have renewed the interest and hope of finding effective neuroleptics devoid of side effects. Finally, the recent production of genetically-derived animals lacking several of these receptor genes should help elucidate which specific physiological paradigms the receptors mediate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Dopamine / physiology*


  • Receptors, Dopamine