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Pharmacol Rev. 2002 Jun;54(2):285-322.

The tachykinin peptide family.

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  • 1Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche-Institute of Neurobiology and Molecular Medicine, Rome, Italy.


The tachykinin peptide family certainly represents one of the largest peptide families described in the animal organism. So far, more than 40 tachykinins have been isolated from invertebrate (insects, worms, and molluscs), protochordate, and vertebrate (skin, gastrointestinal tract, peripheral and central nervous system) tissues. Substance P (SP), first identified by bioassay as early as 1931 but sequenced only in 1971, several years after the elucidation of the structure of eledoisin from molluscan tissues and of physalaemin from amphibian skin, may be considered as a prototype of the tachykinins. Hitherto, as many as 19 tachykinins have been isolated from amphibian integument, and eight additional peptides have been isolated from amphibian gut and brain. Counterparts of skin tachykinins in mammalian tissues are SP, neurokinin A, and neurokinin B. Three main receptor subtypes for the tachykinins have been identified (NK1, NK2, and NK3), but their number is probably destined to increase. It is obvious that the peripheral and central effects of the tachykinins may substantially vary depending on the activation of different receptor subtypes. Matters are further complicated by the frequent capacity of the single tachykinins to bind, although with different affinity, to more receptors. It has been recognized that tachykinins have a variety of effects in physiological and pathological conditions, and there is evidence suggesting intrinsic neuroprotective and neurodegenerative properties of these neuropeptides. This review provides an update on the current body of knowledge regarding tachykinin occurrence and distribution in the animal kingdom, from the lowest invertebrates to man, and the physiological and pharmacological actions of tachykinins outlining the pregnant importance of this large peptide family.

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