The D3 dopamine receptor, a D2-like receptor, is selectively expressed in the ventral striatum, particularly in the shell of nucleus accumbens and islands of Calleja, where it is found in medium sized substance P neurons. The latter co-express the D1 receptor whose interaction with the D3 receptor was studied by treating rats with selective agonists and antagonists. In agreement with the opposite cAMP response, they mediate in cultured neuroblastoma cells, the D1 and D3 receptors exerted opposite influences on c-fos expression in islands of Calleja. However, in agreement with the synergistic influence of cAMP on D3 receptor-mediated mitogenesis on the same cultured cells, D1 and D3 receptor stimulation in vivo synergistically enhanced preprotachykinin mRNA in the shell of accumbens. This indicates that the two receptor subtypes may affect neurons in either synergy or opposition according to the cell or signal generated. Levodopa-induced behavioral sensitization in hemiparkinsonian rats is another example of D1/D3 receptor interaction. Hence repeated levodopa administration induces the ectopic appearance of the D3 receptor in substance P/dynorphin, striatonigral neurons of the dorsal striatum. This induction is secondary to D1 receptor stimulation in neurons of the denervated side and fully accounts for the sensitization, i.e. the increased behavioral responsiveness to levodopa. During brain development, a similar process could operate to control the late appearance of the D3 receptor in D1-receptor bearing neurons of the ventral striatum at a time at which they start to be innervated by dopamine neurons. Finally, taking into account a variety of genetic, developmental, neuroimaging and pharmacological data, we postulate that imbalances between the levels of D1 and D3 receptors in the same neurons could be responsible for schizophrenic disorders.
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