Transmitters and peptides: Basic principles

Lakshmi A. Devi, Lloyd D. Fricker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Signaling between cells plays an important role in all multicellular organisms, both in the nervous system as well as other tissues. Most intercellular signaling involves chemical mediators such as neurotransmitters and neuropeptides; these are collectively referred to as chemical transmitters. A large number of drugs affect cell-cell signaling, and an understanding of these signaling molecules is therefore an essential aspect of neuropharmacology. Neurotransmitters and neuropeptides share a number of key properties. Both types of chemical transmitters are synthesized and secreted from the signaling cell. The synthesis and/or secretion of the molecules is highly regulated. Another common feature of chemical transmitters is that the molecules produce a physiological response, often mediated by binding to a receptor on the cell surface. Finally, the response is terminated by removal of the signaling molecule from the extracellular space, either by chemical transformation of the neurotransmitter or neuropeptide into an inactive form or by uptake of the neurotransmitter into a cell. These general properties are shared by classical neurotransmitters (such as acetylcholine and dopamine), nonclassical neurotransmitters (such as nitric oxide and the endocannabinoids), and neuropeptides (such as enkephalin and neuropeptide Y). However, fundamental differences exist between these various classes of signaling molecules, and collectively, these distinct chemical transmitters contribute to the diversity of signaling within brain and other organs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNeuroscience in the 21st Century
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Basic to Clinical, Second Edition
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781493934744
ISBN (Print)9781493934737
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Acetylcholine
  • Cell-cell signaling molecules
  • Classical neuropeptides
  • Classical neurotransmitters
  • Dopamine
  • Enkephalins
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
  • Glutamate
  • Lipid-derived endocannabinoids
  • Neuropeptide Y (NPY)
  • Nitric oxide (NO)
  • Nonclassical neuropeptides
  • Nonclassical neurotransmitters
  • Opioid peptide synapse
  • Secretin
  • Serotonin (5-Hydroxytryptamine)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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