Opposite effects of dopamine D2 and D3 receptors on learning and memory in the rat

Eur J Pharmacol. 1997 Oct 8;336(2-3):107-12. doi: 10.1016/s0014-2999(97)01235-1.


Mesolimbocortical dopamine plays a role in learning and memory. The specific receptor subtypes mediating the effects of dopamine, however, are still unknown. Dopamine D2, D3 and D4 receptors are expressed in the hippocampus and dopamine D3 receptors are present in the septal area, suggesting that these receptor subtypes can contribute to the behavioral effects of dopamine D2-like receptor agonists. We now investigated the role of dopamine D2 and D3 receptors in learning and memory by using the transient amnesia induced by scopolamine in the passive avoidance test as experimental model. The data strongly suggest that both dopamine D2 and D3 receptors mediate the effects of dopamine on the integrative function of learning and memory. In particular, we show that the non-selective dopamine agonist apomorphine prevents the scopolamine-induced disruption of consolidation of the previously acquired passive avoidance behavior. This effect is mediated by receptors belonging to the dopamine D2 family since it was antagonized by (-)-sulpiride and mimicked by quinpirole. Nafadotride, a relatively selective antagonist for dopamine D3 receptors, antagonized scopolamine-induced memory disruption and potentiated the facilitatory effect of quinpirole. Taken together, these results suggest that the effects of dopamine on memory consolidation are the result of a balance between dopamine D2 receptor-mediated facilitation and dopamine D3 receptor-mediated inhibition, and that dopamine D2 and D3 receptors play opposite roles in the control of the mechanisms leading to memory consolidation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amnesia / chemically induced
  • Amnesia / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology
  • Learning / drug effects
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / physiology*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • Scopolamine


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Drd3 protein, rat
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • Scopolamine