Effects of l-stepholidine on forebrain Fos expression: comparison with clozapine and haloperidol
l-Stepholidine (SPD) is a tetrahydroprotoberberine alkaloid and a mixed dopamine D1 agonist/D2 antagonist. Preliminary clinical trials suggest that SPD improves both positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia without producing significant extrapyramidal side effects. Here, we report that SPD mimics the effect of the atypical antipsychotic drug clozapine, preferentially increasing Fos expression in corticolimbic areas. Thus, at 10 mg/kg (i.p.), SPD induced Fos expression in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), nucleus accumbens (NAc), and lateral septal nucleus (LSN) without significantly affecting the dorsolateral striatum (DLSt). At higher doses (20-40 mg/kg), SPD also increased Fos expression in the DLSt. The increase, however, was less pronounced than the increase seen in the NAc. Within the NAc, SPD also induced more Fos expression in the shell than in the core. In all subcortical areas examined, the Fos expression induced by SPD was mimicked by the D2 antagonist sulpiride and reversed by the D2 agonist quinpirole, suggesting that the effect is due to blockade of D2-like receptors by SPD. In the mPFC, however, the effect was not mimicked by sulpride or reversed by quinpirole. It was also not mimicked by the D1 agonist SKF38393 or SKF38393 plus sulpride, and not reversed by the D1 antagonist SCH23390. These results suggest that, in the mPFC, SPD may induce Fos expression through a non-DA mechanism. Whether the mechanism involves an interaction of SPD with other neurotransmitters such as 5-HT and norepinephrine remains to be determined.