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There are two families of dopamine (DA) receptors, called D1 and D2, respectively. The D1 family consists of D1- and D5-receptor subtypes and the D2 family consists of D2-, D3-, and D4-receptor subtypes. The amino acid sequences of these receptors show that they all belong to a large superfamily of receptors with seven transmembrane domains, which are coupled to their intracellular signal transduction systems by G-proteins. The implications of DA receptors in neuropsychiatry and cardiovascular and renal diseases are discussed. Neuropsychiatry indications include Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, migraine, drug dependence, mania and depression, and Gilles de la Tourette syndrome. The underlying dysfunction of dopaminergic systems and the potential benefits of dopaminergic therapy in these different indications are critically examined. With respect to the pharmacological treatment of Parkinson's disease, a range of DA agonists are in various stages of preclinical and clinical development. D2-receptor agonist activity is predominant in most effective antiparkinsonian DA agonists. However, in practice, it is difficult to treat patients for several years with DA agonists alone; therapeutic benefit is not sustained. Rather, the use of a combination of DA agonists and levodopa is considered preferable. Reports of the efficacy of DA partial agonists await confirmation, and recent clinical investigations also suggest the potential of D1 receptor agonists as antiparkinson drugs. Regarding migraine pathogenesis, clinical and pharmacological evidence suggests that DA is involved in this disorder. Most prodromal and accompanying symptoms may be related to dopaminergic activation. Several drugs acting on DA receptors are effective in migraine treatment. Furthermore, migraine patients show a higher incidence of dopaminergic symptoms following acute DA agonist administration, when compared with normal controls. In cardiology, the therapeutic benefits of DA agonists are noted in the treatment of heart failure. Low doses of DA are widely used for its specific dopaminergic effects on renal function, which are suggested to be beneficial, and for its alpha- and beta-adrenergic-mediated responses that occur with higher doses. However, studies have been unable to demonstrate that DA can prevent acute renal failure or reduce mortality. It appears that the significant progress that is being made in the molecular understanding of DA receptors will continue to have a tremendous impact in the pharmacological treatment of neuropsychiatric, cardiovascular, and renal diseases.

Original publication




Journal article


Pharmacol Ther

Publication Date





133 - 156


Animals, Cardiovascular Diseases, Clinical Trials as Topic, Dopamine Agonists, Dopamine Antagonists, Humans, Nervous System Diseases, Receptors, Dopamine, Renal Insufficiency