l-Stepholidine-induced excitation of dopamine neurons in rat ventral tegmental area is associated with its 5-HT1A receptor partial agonistic activity

Ming Gao, Hong Yuan Chu, Guo Zhang Jin, Zhang Jin Zhang, Jie Wu, Xue Chu Zhen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Rationale: l-Stepholidine (l-SPD), a tetrahydroprotoberberine alkaloid, possesses a pharmacological profile of a D1/5-HT1A agonist and a D2 antagonist. This unique pharmacological profile makes it a promising novel antipsychotic candidate. Preliminary clinical trials and animal experiments suggest that l-SPD improves both positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia without producing significant extrapyramidal side effects. To further explore the antipsychotic mechanisms of the drug, we studied the effects of l-SPD on the activity of dopamine (DA) neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) using in vivo single-unit recording technique in rats. Result: We found that l-SPD increased VTA DA neurons firing rate and induced slow oscillation in firing pattern. Moreover, l-SPD, not clozapine, reversed d-amphetamine-induced inhibition which induced an excitation of VTA DA neurons. Furthermore, our data indicated that the excitatory effect of l-SPD is associated with its partial agonistic action for the 5-HT1A receptor since the 5-HT1A receptor antagonist WAY100635 could block the l-SPD-induced excitatory effect. However, activation of 5-HT1A receptor alone by specific agonist (±)-8-Hydroxy-2-(dipropylamino) tetralin (8-OH-DPAT) was insufficient to elicit excitation of VTA DA neurons, but the excitation of 8-OH-DPAT on VTA DA neurons was elicited in the presence of D2-like receptors antagonist raclopride. Collectively, these results indicate that l-SPD excited VTA DA neurons requiring its D2-like receptors antagonistic activity and 5-HT1A receptor agonistic activity. Conclusion: The present data demonstrate that D2 receptor antagonist/5-HT1A receptor agonistic dual properties modulate dopaminergic transmission in a unique pattern that may underlie the different therapeutic responses between l-SPD and other atypical antipsychotic drugs. Synapse, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-387
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Dopamine
  • Schizophrenia
  • Serotonin
  • Single unit recording
  • Slow oscillation
  • l-stepholidine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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