Trace amines are an endogenous group of trace amine associated receptor 1 (TAAR1) agonists – and hence, monoaminergic neuromodulators – that are structurally and metabolically related to classical monoamine neurotransmitters. Compared to the classical monoamines, they are present in trace concentrations. They are distributed heterogeneously throughout the mammalian brain and peripheral nervous tissues and exhibit high rates of metabolism. Although they can be synthesized within parent monoamine neurotransmitter systems, there is evidence that suggests that some of them may comprise their own independent neurotransmitter systems.
Trace amines play significant roles in regulating the quantity of monoamine neurotransmitters in the synaptic cleft of monoamine neurons with co-localized TAAR1. They have well-characterized presynaptic amphetamine-like effects on these monoamine neurons via TAAR1 activation; specifically, by activating TAAR1 in neurons they promote the release[note 1] and prevent reuptake of monoamine neurotransmitters from the synaptic cleft as well as inhibit postsynaptic neuronal firing. Phenethylamine and amphetamine possess analogous pharmacodynamics in human dopamine neurons, as both compounds induce efflux from vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) and activate TAAR1 with comparable efficacy. Like dopamine, noradrenaline, andserotonin, the trace amines have been implicated in a vast array of human disorders of affect and cognition, such as ADHD,depression and schizophrenia, among others. Trace aminergic hypo-function is particularly relevant to ADHD, since the two most commonly prescribed drugs for ADHD, amphetamine and methylphenidate, increase phenethylamine biosynthesis in treatment-responsive individuals with ADHD.