The “trace amines” are normal chemicals found in the brain that have been associated with neurological disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and addiction. In the last 10 years, there have been major advances in our understanding of how trace amines contribute to normal and abnormal brain function. A family of specific receptors for trace amines was recently identified, the so-called “Trace Amine-Associated Receptors” or TAARs. TAARs are found in all mammals examined so far, including humans. The best described member of this receptor family, TAAR1, is found in the brain and is activated by trace amines, and by psychostimulants and drugs of abuse such as LSD, methamphetamine, and MDMA (ecstasy). As a result, TAAR1 is a focus of extensive research. Much less is known about the other members of the TAAR gene family (TAARs 2 through 9 in mouse), despite the fact that they may also function in neurological disorders. This proposal describes two complementary Aims: to test whether TAARs 2 through 9 are found in the mouse brain, and whether removing these receptors causes behavioral changes that are consistent with a role in neurological disorders. To do this, we are taking advantage of unique, genetically modified mouse strains that my lab recently generated to study olfactory function. Support for this proposal would allow my lab to leverage these currently existing genetic tools to pursue a new avenue of research that may have clinical relevance. The long-term goal of this work is to better understand how dysfunction of TAAR genes contributes to neurological disorders in humans.
Thomas Bozza, Ph.D.