Sigma receptors are classified into sigma1 and sigma2 subtypes. These subtypes display a different tissue distribution and a distinct physiological and pharmacological profile in the central and peripheral nervous system. The characterization of these subtypes and the discovery of new specific sigma receptor ligands demonstrated that sigma receptors are novel targets for the therapeutic treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases (schizophrenia, depression, and cognition), brain ischemia, and cocaine addiction. Furthermore, imaging of sigma1 receptors in the human brain using specific PET radioligands has started. In addition, the two sigma receptor subtypes are also expressed on tumor cells, where they could be of prognostic relevance. The ability of sigma2 receptor agonists to inhibit tumor cell proliferation through mechanisms that might involve apoptosis, intracellular Ca2+, and sphingolipids has promoted the development of sigma2 receptor agonists as novel therapeutic drugs for treating cancer. Consequently, sigma2 receptor ligands have been demonstrated to be potentially useful tumor imaging ligands. In this article, we focus on the sigma receptor ligands as therapeutic agents and as radiopharmaceuticals.
Keywords: CNS, NMDA receptor, antidepressants, 4-phenyl-1-(4-phenylbutyl)-piperidine (PPBP), ischemia, Cocaine addiction
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