, Volume 174, Issue 3, pp 301-319
Date: 10 Jun 2004

Sigma receptors: biology and therapeutic potential

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Abstract

More than 20 years after the identification of the sigma receptors as a unique binding site in the brain and in the peripheral organs, several questions regarding this receptor are still open. Only one of the subtypes of the receptor has been cloned to date, but the endogenous ligand still remains unknown, and the possible association of the receptor with a conventional second messenger system is controversial. From the very beginning, the sigma receptors were associated with various central nervous system disorders such as schizophrenia or movement disorders. Today, after hundreds of papers dealing with the importance of sigma receptors in brain function, it is widely accepted that sigma receptors represent a new and different avenue in the possible pharmacological treatment of several brain-related disorders. In this review, what is known about the biology of the sigma receptor regarding its putative structure and its distribution in the central nervous system is summarized first. The role of sigma receptors regulating cellular functions and other neurotransmitter systems is also addressed, as well as a short overview of the possible endogenous ligands. Finally, although no specific sigma ligand has reached the market, different pharmacological approaches to the alleviation and treatment of several central nervous system disorders and deficits, including schizophrenia, pain, memory deficits, etc., are discussed, with an overview of different compounds and their potential therapeutic use.