Abstract: Mark Berry

The little molecule that could… in drug abuse, psychiatry, species specific social cues, thyroid hormone effects and diabetes

Trace amines are naturally occurring compounds. They are synthesized in neurons by pathways comparable to monoamine neurotransmitters, but do not appear to function as neurotransmitters. Rather, trace amines may function as a built-in control system, maintaining neuronal activity within defined physiological limits. The discovery of a family of vertebrate receptor proteins, at least a sub-set of which is selectively activated by trace amines, has provided a viable target for investigating the roles of trace amines in human health and disease. Studies with these receptors have revealed that in addition to the long suspected role of trace amines in psychiatric disorders, this system is also a target for drugs of abuse, non-genomic thyroid hormone effects, and regulation of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. The trace amine receptor family has a number of features that are not shared by receptor families for other naturally occurring amines. The trace amine receptors have also been identified as a novel class of olfactory receptor and show a pronounced species-dependent expression. This seminar will review the developments in the trace amine field and present some of our recent studies examining the mechanisms of trace amine functioning through a combination of classical pharmacology  and computer simulation techniques.