Pharmacology of human trace amine-associated receptors: Therapeutic opportunities and challenges

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The discovery in 2001 of a G protein-coupled receptor family, subsequently termed trace amine-associated receptors (TAAR), triggered a resurgence of interest in so-called trace amines. Initial optimism quickly faded, however, as the TAAR family presented a series of challenges preventing the use of standard medicinal chemistry and pharmacology technologies. Consequently the development of basic tools for probing TAAR and translating findings from model systems to humans has been problematic. Despite these challenges the last 5 years have seen considerable advances, in particular with respect to TAAR1, which appears to function as an endogenous rheostat, maintaining central neurotransmission within defined physiological limits, in part through receptor heterodimerization yielding biased signaling outputs. Regulation of the dopaminergic system is particularly well understood and clinical testing of TAAR1 directed ligands for schizophrenia and psychiatric disorders have begun. In addition, pre-clinical animal models have identified TAAR1 as a novel target for drug addiction and metabolic disorders. Growing evidence also suggests a role for TAARs in regulating immune function. This review critically discusses the current state of TAAR research, highlighting recent developments and focussing on human TAARs, their functions, and clinical implications. Current gaps in knowledge are identified, along with the research reagents and translational tools still required for continued advancement of the field. Through this, a picture emerges of an exciting field on the cusp of significant developments, with the potential to identify new therapeutic leads for some of the major unmet medical needs in the areas of neuropsychiatry and metabolic disorders.

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