Rationale: Alteration of dopamine neurotransmission in the prefrontal cortex, especially hypofunction of dopamine D1 receptors, contributes to psychotic symptoms and cognitive deficit in schizophrenia. D1 receptors signal through the cAMP/PKA second messenger cascade, which is modulated by phosphodiesterase (PDE) enzymes that hydrolyze and inactivate cyclic nucleotides. Though several PDEs are expressed in cortical neurons, the PDE4 enzyme family (PDE4A-D) has been implicated in the control of cognitive function. The best studied isoform, PDE4B, interacts with a schizophrenia susceptibility factor, disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1). Objectives: We explore the control of mouse frontal cortex dopamine D1 receptor signaling and associated behavior by PDE4. Results: Inhibition of PDE4 by rolipram induced activation of cAMP/PKA signaling in cortical slices and in vivo, leading to the phosphorylation of DARPP-32 and other postsynaptic and presynaptic PKA-substrates. Rolipram also enhanced DARPP-32 phosphorylation invoked by D1 receptor activation. Immunohistochemical studies demonstrated PDE4A, PDE4B, and PDE4D expression in DARPP-32-positive neurons in layer VI of frontal cortex, most likely in D1 receptor-positive, glutamatergic corticothalamic pyramidal neurons. Furthermore, the ability of rolipram treatment to improve the performance of mice in a sensorimotor gating test was DARPP-32-dependent. Conclusions: PDE4, which is co-expressed with DARPP-32 in D1 receptor-positive cortical pyramidal neurons in layer VI, modulates the level of D1 receptor signaling and DARPP-32 phosphorylation in the frontal cortex, likely influencing cognitive function. These biochemical and behavioral actions of PDE4 inhibitors may contribute to the hypothesized antipsychotic actions of this class of compounds. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.