Switching antipsychotics: Imaging the differential effect on the topography of postsynaptic density transcripts in antipsychotic-naïve vs. antipsychotic-exposed rats

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The postsynaptic density (PSD) has been regarded as a functional switchboard at the crossroads of a dopamine–glutamate interaction, and it is putatively involved in the pathophysiology of psychosis. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that antipsychotics may modulate several PSD transcripts, such as PSD-95, Shank, and Homer. Despite switching antipsychotics is a frequent strategy to counteract lack of efficacy and/or side effect onset in clinical practice, no information is available on the effects of sequential treatments with different antipsychotics on PSD molecules. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether a previous exposure to a typical antipsychotic and a switch to an atypical one may affect the expression of PSD transcripts, in order to evaluate potential neurobiological correlates of this common clinical practice, with specific regards to putative synaptic plasticity processes.

We treated male Sprague-Dawley rats intraperitoneally for 15 days with haloperidol or vehicle, then from the sixteenth day we switched the animals to amisulpride or continued to treat them with vehicle or haloperidol for 15 additional days. In this way we got six first treatment/second treatment groups: vehicle/vehicle, vehicle/haloperidol, vehicle/amisulpride, haloperidol/vehicle, haloperidol/haloperidol, haloperidol/amisulpride. In this paradigm, we evaluated the expression of brain transcripts belonging to relevant and interacting PSD proteins, both of the Immediate-Early Gene (Homer1a, Arc) and the constitutive classes (Homer1b/c and PSD-95).

The major finding was the differential effect of amisulpride on gene transcripts when administered in naïve vs. antipsychotic-pretreated rats, with modifications of the ratio between Homer1a/Homer1b transcripts and differential effects in cortex and striatum.

These results suggest that the neurobiological effects on PSD transcripts of amisulpride, and possibly of other antipsychotics, may be greatly affected by prior antipsychotic treatments and may impact significantly on the switching procedure.

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