Access to the CNS: Biomarker Strategies for Dopaminergic Treatments

Willem Johan van den Brink, Semra Palic, Isabelle Köhler, Elizabeth Cunera Maria de Lange*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Despite substantial research carried out over the last decades, it remains difficult to understand the wide range of pharmacological effects of dopaminergic agents. The dopaminergic system is involved in several neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia. This complex system features multiple pathways implicated in emotion and cognition, psychomotor functions and endocrine control through activation of G protein-coupled dopamine receptors. This review focuses on the system-wide effects of dopaminergic agents on the multiple biochemical and endocrine pathways, in particular the biomarkers (i.e., indicators of a pharmacological process) that reflect these effects. Dopaminergic treatments developed over the last decades were found to be associated with numerous biochemical pathways in the brain, including the norepinephrine and the kynurenine pathway. Additionally, they have shown to affect peripheral systems, for example the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Dopaminergic agents thus have a complex and broad pharmacological profile, rendering drug development challenging. Considering the complex system-wide pharmacological profile of dopaminergic agents, this review underlines the needs for systems pharmacology studies that include: i) proteomics and metabolomics analysis; ii) longitudinal data evaluation and mathematical modeling; iii) pharmacokinetics-based interpretation of drug effects; iv) simultaneous biomarker evaluation in the brain, the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma; and v) specific attention to condition-dependent (e.g., disease) pharmacology. Such approach is considered essential to increase our understanding of central nervous system (CNS) drug effects and substantially improve CNS drug development.

Original languageEnglish
Article number64
JournalPharmaceutical research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • biomarkers
  • CNS drug development
  • dopaminergic agents
  • systems pharmacology


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