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Prototypical antipsychotic drugs protect hippocampal neuronal cultures against cell death induced by growth medium deprivation

Stéphane Bastianetto, Marc Danik, Françoise Mennicken, Sylvain Williams and Rémi Quirion*

Author affiliations

Douglas Hospital Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, 6875 LaSalle Boulevard, Montreal, Québec, H4H 1R3, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2006, 7:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-7-28

Published: 30 March 2006



Several clinical studies suggested that antipsychotic-based medications could ameliorate cognitive functions impaired in certain schizophrenic patients. Accordingly, we investigated the effects of various dopaminergic receptor antagonists – including atypical antipsychotics that are prescribed for the treatment of schizophrenia – in a model of toxicity using cultured hippocampal neurons, the hippocampus being a region of particular relevance to cognition.


Hippocampal cell death induced by deprivation of growth medium constituents was strongly blocked by drugs including antipsychotics (10-10-10-6 M) that display nM affinities for D2 and/or D4 receptors (clozapine, haloperidol, (±)-sulpiride, domperidone, clozapine, risperidone, chlorpromazine, (+)-butaclamol and L-741,742). These effects were shared by some caspases inhibitors and were not accompanied by inhibition of reactive oxygen species. In contrast, (-)-raclopride and remoxipride, two drugs that preferentially bind D2 over D4 receptors were ineffective, as well as the selective D3 receptor antagonist U 99194. Interestingly, (-)-raclopride (10-6 M) was able to block the neuroprotective effect of the atypical antipsychotic clozapine (10-6 M).


Taken together, these data suggest that D2-like receptors, particularly the D4 subtype, mediate the neuroprotective effects of antipsychotic drugs possibly through a ROS-independent, caspase-dependent mechanism.