Differential regional and cellular distribution of dopamine D2-like receptors: an immunocytochemical study of subtype-specific antibodies in rat and human brain

J Comp Neurol. 1998 Dec 21;402(3):353-71. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9861(19981221)402:3<353::aid-cne5>3.0.co;2-4.


Dopamine D2-like receptors (D2, D3, and D4) are major targets for action of typical and atypical neuroleptics, commonly used in the treatment of schizophrenia. To understand their individual functional contribution, subtype-selective anti-peptide antibodies were raised against D2, D3, and D4 receptor proteins. The antibodies were shown to be specific on immunoblots of rat brain membranes and immunoprecipitated the solubilized native dopamine receptors in an antibody concentration-dependent manner. In addition, they also bind selectively to the respective recombinant D2, D3, and D4 receptor membrane proteins from cDNA transfected cells. Immunolocalization studies show that the D2-like receptor proteins had differential regional and cellular distribution in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, basal ganglia, cerebellum, and midbrain, thus providing anatomical substrate for area-specific regulation of the dopamine neurotransmission. In cortical neurons, D4 receptor protein was found in both pyramidal and nonpyramidal cells, whereas D2 and D3 seem to be mostly associated with nonpyramidal interneurons. In rat hippocampus, the expression pattern of D2-like receptors (D4>D3>D2) mirrored that obtained with immunoprecipitation studies. D2 and D4 receptor immunolabeling was observed in the thalamic reticular nucleus, which was negative for the D3 subtype. Species differences were also observed; for example, the D4 subtype receptor is the most highly expressed protein in the rat cortex, whereas it is significantly less in human cortex. Differential patterns of D2, D3, and D4 receptor expression in rat and human brain should shed light on the therapeutic actions of neuroleptic drugs and may lead to the development of more specifically targeted antipsychotic drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Basal Ganglia / metabolism
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Brain Chemistry / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Membranes / metabolism
  • Precipitin Tests
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • Receptors, Dopamine D4


  • Drd3 protein, rat
  • Drd4 protein, rat
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Receptors, Dopamine D3
  • Receptors, Dopamine D4