Many issues remain unresolved about antipsychotic drugs. Their therapeutic potency scales with affinity for dopamine D2 receptors, but there are indications that they act indirectly, with dopamine D1 receptors (and others) as possible ultimate targets. Classical neuroleptic drugs disinhibit striatal cholinergic interneurones and increase acetyl choline release. Their effects may then depend on stimulation of muscarinic receptors on principle striatal neurones (M4 receptors, with reduction of cAMP formation, for therapeutic effects; M1 receptors for motor side effects). Many psychotic patients do not benefit from neuroleptic drugs, or develop resistance to them during prolonged treatment, but respond well to clozapine. For patients who do respond, there is a wide ( > ten-fold) range in optimal doses. Refractoriness or low sensitivity to antipsychotic effects (and other pathologies) could then arise from low density of cholinergic interneurones. Clozapine probably owes its special actions to direct stimulation of M4 receptors, a mechanism available when indirect action is lost.
Keywords: Antipsychotic drugs, neuroleptic drugs, cholinergic interneurones, D1 receptors, D2 receptors, muscarinic M1 receptors, muscarinic M4 receptors, neuroleptic threshold, atypical antipsychotic agents
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