Classical transmitters and their receptors in flatworms
The flatworm nervous system employs a wide repertoire of neuroactive substances, including small chemical messengers, the so called classical transmitters, and several types of neuropeptides. A large body of research accumulated over four decades has provided a wealth of information on the tissue localization and effects of these substances, their biochemistry and, recently, their molecular modes of action in all major classes of flatworms. This evidence will be reviewed, with particular emphasis on the small (classical) transmitters and the receptors that mediate their effects. One of the themes that will emerge from this discussion is that classical transmitters regulate core activities such as movement, metabolism and transport, and thus are essential for survival of the organism. In addition, the evidence shows that flatworms have multiple neurotransmitter receptors, many with unusual pharmacological features, which make them particularly attractive as drug targets. Understanding the molecular basis of these distinctive properties, and developing new, more specific receptor agonists and antagonists will undoubtedly become a major challenge in future research.
Key Words: Flatworms; platyhelminths; neurotransmitters; serotonin; acetylcholine; G protein coupled receptors (GPCR); nicotinic receptors.
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