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Neuron. 2012 Oct 4;76(1):12-21. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.09.009.

Orphan GPCRs and neuromodulation.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697-4625, USA.


Most G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) started as orphan GPCRs. Matching them to known neuromodulators led to the elucidation of the broad diversity of the neuroreceptor families. Moreover, orphan GPCRs have also been used as targets to discover novel neuromodulators. These discoveries have had profound impact on our understanding of brain function. Here, I present an overview of how some of the novel neuropeptides have enlarged our comprehension of responses that direct sleep/wakefulness, the onset of obesity and the feeding response. I also discuss other advances gained from orphan GPCR studies such as the concept of specificity in neuromodulation or of receptors acting as sensors instead of synaptic transmitters. Finally, I suggest that the recently discovered neuromodulators may hold the keys to our understanding of higher brain functions and psychiatric disorders.

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