Our understanding of glutamatergic transmission in the central nervous system has been greatly expanded with the discovery and investigation of the metabotropic glutamate receptor family. Complementing the ionotropic glutamategated ion channels, these G-protein coupled receptors play critical roles in neuronal and glial functions such as the modulation of neuronal excitability, synaptic transmission, and various metabolic functions. Because of the ubiquitous distribution of glutamatergic synapses, it has been deemed likely that mGlu receptors participate in most, if not all, major functions of the CNS. It is predicted that the wide diversity and heterogeneous distribution of mGlu receptor subtypes will provide avenues to develop clinically relevant pharmacological agents that target specific CNS systems. mGlu receptors are regulated by differences in expression, alternative splicing patterns, and interactions with other proteins in the cell and it is anticipated that an understanding of these modifiers of mGlu receptor function will open new opportunities for pharmacological tool development and new therapeutic strategies. Over the past decade, an increasing number of selective agonists, antagonists, and allosteric modulators have been developed which target distinct mGlu receptor subtypes; many of these agents have now been further validated in numerous electrophysiological and behavioral models. The combination of these pharmacological tools, in conjunction with genetic approaches, has led to major advances in our understanding of the roles of mGlu receptors in the regulation of CNS function and animal behavior. These studies suggest the exciting possibility that drugs active at mGlu receptors will be useful in treatment of a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders such as Parkinsons disease, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia.
Program in Translational Neuropharmacology, Department of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt UniversityMedical Center, 23rd Avenue South at Pierce, 452-B Preston Research Building, Nashville, TN 37232-6600.