Diverse psychotomimetics act through a common signaling pathway.
Three distinct classes of drugs: dopaminergic agonists (such as D-amphetamine), serotonergic agonists (such as LSD), and glutamatergic antagonists (such as PCP) all induce psychotomimetic states in experimental animals that closely resemble schizophrenia symptoms in humans. Here we implicate a common signaling pathway in mediating these effects. In this pathway, dopamine- and an adenosine 3',5'-monophosphate (cAMP)-regulated phospho-protein of 32 kilodaltons (DARPP-32) is phosphorylated or dephosphorylated at three sites, in a pattern predicted to cause a synergistic inhibition of protein phosphatase-1 and concomitant regulation of its downstream effector proteins glycogen synthesis kinase-3 (GSK-3), cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), and c-Fos. In mice with a genetic deletion of DARPP-32 or with point mutations in phosphorylation sites of DARPP-32, the effects of D-amphetamine, LSD, and PCP on two behavioral parameters-sensorimotor gating and repetitive movements-were strongly attenuated.