The mesolimbic dopaminergic system is known to mediate rewarding effects of nicotine administration, and dysfunctions of this system may underlie failure to stop cigarette smoking. Expression of dopamine receptors in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) has been indicated as a peripheral correlate of brain status. Dopamine receptor D(3) (DRD3) and D(4) (DRD4) mRNA expression in PBLs was measured by real-time polymerase chain reaction in smokers (n=26) and former smokers (n=14), compared with nonsmoking control subjects (n=35).
It has been proposed that neurotransmitter receptor expression in peripheral immune cells reflects expression of these receptors in the brain. To test this "peripheral marker hypothesis", we compared mRNA expression of the dopamine receptors D3 (DRD3) and D4 (DRD4) in peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) to personality traits assessed with the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) in 50 healthy and unmedicated Caucasian individuals. A shared variance of at least 17% (p=0.016) between DRD3 mRNA expression in PBL and the personality trait of persistence was found.