D3 dopamine receptor mRNA is widely expressed in the human brain

Brain Res. 1998 Jan 1;779(1-2):58-74. doi: 10.1016/s0006-8993(97)01078-0.


Considerable attention has been given to the association of the D3 dopamine receptor subtype and limbic function based on the abundant localization of D3 receptor sites and mRNA expression in the islands of Calleja and nucleus accumbens in experimental animals. Though most human anatomical studies have focused on the role of D3 receptors in limited brain structures, detailed information about the overall anatomical organization of the D3 receptor in the human brain is still, however, not available. In the current study, we examined the anatomical distribution of D3 receptor mRNA expression at different levels of the human brain in whole hemisphere horizontal cryosections using in situ hybridization. This approach made it possible to establish for the first time the wide and heterogenous expression of the D3 receptor gene throughout the human brain. As expected, the most abundant D3 mRNA expression levels were found in the islands of Calleja and discrete cell cluster populations within the ventral striatum/nucleus accumbens region. High levels were also evident within the dentate gyrus and striate cortex. Low to moderate D3 mRNA expression levels were apparent in most brain areas including all other cortical regions (highest in the anterior cingulate/subcallosal gyrus), caudate nucleus, putamen, anterior and medial thalamic nucleus, mammillary body, amygdala, hippocampal CA region, lateral geniculate body, substantia nigra pars compacta, locus coeruleus, and raphe nuclei. While the current anatomical map of D3 receptor mRNA expression in the human brain does confirm previous reports that D3 receptors may play important roles in limbic-related functions such as emotion and cognition, the findings also suggest other non-limbic functions for D3 mRNA-expressing cell populations such as processing of motor and sensory information.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Diencephalon / chemistry
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Mesencephalon / chemistry
  • Middle Aged
  • Pons / chemistry
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / genetics*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • Telencephalon / chemistry


  • DRD3 protein, human
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3