Clozapine acts as an agonist at serotonin 2A receptors to counter MK-801-induced behaviors through a βarrestin2-independent activation of Akt.

Authors: Schmid CL, Streicher JM, Meltzer HY, Bohn LM.
Publisher/Year: Neuropsychopharmacology 39(8):1902-13.
Pub Med ID/Journal ID: PMID:24531562


The G protein-coupled serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR) is a prominent target for atypical antipsychotic drugs, such as clozapine. Although clozapine is known to inhibit 5-HT2AR signaling through G protein-dependent mechanisms, it differs from classic GPCR antagonists, in that it also induces 5-HT2AR internalization and activates Akt signaling via a 5-HT2AR-mediated event. In this regard, clozapine may also be considered a functionally selective agonist. The cognate neurotransmitter at the 5-HT2AR, serotonin, also induces 5-HT2AR internalization and Akt phosphorylation. Serotonin promotes interactions with the scaffolding and regulatory protein, βarrestin2, which results in the recruitment and activation of Akt. These interactions prove to be critical for serotonin-induced, 5-HT2AR-mediated behavioral responses in mice. Herein, we sought to determine whether clozapine also utilizes βarrestin2-mediated mechanisms to induce 5-HT2AR signaling, and whether this interaction contributes to its behavioral effects in mice. We demonstrate that unlike serotonin, clozapine-mediated 5-HT2AR internalization and Akt phosphorylation is independent of receptor interactions with βarrestin2. Moreover, clozapine-mediated suppression of MK-801 and phencyclidine (PCP)-induced hyperlocomotion is βarrestin2 independent, although it is dependent upon Akt. These results demonstrate that pharmacologically oppositional ligands, serotonin and clozapine, utilize differential mechanisms to achieve the same 5-HT2AR-meadiated downstream events: Akt phosphorylation and receptor internalization. Although βarrestin2 has no effect on clozapine's actions in vivo, Akt phosphorylation is required for clozapine's efficacy in blocking MK-801- and PCP-induced models of schizophrenic behaviors in mice.