Biochemical pharmacology

New functional activity of aripiprazole revealed: Robust antagonism of D2 dopamine receptor-stimulated Gβγ signaling.

PMID 25449598


The dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) is a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) that is generally considered to be a primary target in the treatment of schizophrenia. First generation antipsychotic drugs (e.g. haloperidol) are antagonists of the DRD2, while second generation antipsychotic drugs (e.g. olanzapine) antagonize DRD2 and 5HT2A receptors. Notably, both these classes of drugs may cause side effects associated with D2 receptor antagonism (e.g. hyperprolactemia and extrapyramidal symptoms). The novel, "third generation" antipsychotic drug, aripiprazole is also used to treat schizophrenia, with the remarkable advantage that its tendency to cause extrapyramidal symptoms is minimal. Aripiprazole is considered a partial agonist of the DRD2, but it also has partial agonist/antagonist activity for other GPCRs. Further, aripiprazole has been reported to have a unique activity profile in functional assays with the DRD2. In the present study the molecular pharmacology of aripiprazole was further examined in HEK cell models stably expressing the DRD2 and specific isoforms of adenylyl cyclase to assess functional responses of Gα and Gβγ subunits. Additional studies examined the activity of aripiprazole in DRD2-mediated heterologous sensitization of adenylyl cyclase and cell-based dynamic mass redistribution (DMR). Aripiprazole displayed a unique functional profile for modulation of G proteins, being a partial agonist for Gαi/o and a robust antagonist for Gβγ signaling. Additionally, aripiprazole was a weak partial agonist for both heterologous sensitization and dynamic mass redistribution.