1. The distribution of dopamine D2 receptors in rat heart and coronary vessels and the possible age-related changes in D2 receptor density were studied. The pharmacological characteristics and the anatomical location of dopamine D2-like receptor sites in rat heart and coronary vessels were investigated using combined binding techniques and light microscopy autoradiography.
2. Samples of heart and coronary vessels were harvested from young and old rats. On frozen slices, dopaminergic D2 receptors were labelled by means of a selective D2 ligand, namely [3H]-spiroperidol (spiperone). Inhibition studies were performed using unlabelled agonists and/or labelled and unlabelled antagonists to define pharmacological specificity of the binding. Physiological experiments were performed to demonstrate the selective antagonism between D2 receptors and many dopaminergic drugs.
3. [3H]-Spiroperidol was bound to sections of rat heart and coronary artery (in a manner consistent with the labelling of dopamine D2-like receptors) with an equilibrium dissociation constant of approximately 2.4 ± 0.7 nmol/L and a maximum capacity of binding sites of 65.8 ± 4.5 fmol/mg protein. Experiments performed on sections of coronary veins did not allow the evaluation of specific binding. Autoradiography, observed with light microscopy, showed the development of specific silver grains within the whole wall of rat heart and coronary artery. The greater sensitivity to displacement by amisulpride, bromocriptine, domperidone, haloperidol, raclopride and L-sulpiride than to displacement by N-propyl-norapomorphine, quinpirole and clozapine suggests that the binding sites observed in these experiments are likely to belong to the dopamine D2 receptor subtype.
4. Comparing results in young and old rats, we observed numerous significant age-related changes, including a decrease in D2 receptors localized in rat heart and coronary artery wall. These D2 receptors show a specific location, in close relationship with dopaminergic nerve fibres. They decrease with age and their role remains unknown.