Trace amines, including tyramine, β-phenylethylamine (β-PEA), tryptamine and octopamine, are biologically active amines mostly based on phenylethylamine, occurring in the body in trace amounts. They are a diverse group of naturally occurring and synthetic amines, which are also found in the diet and in herbal plants, such as ephedrine and cathinone. They include amphetamine and its analogues, such as MDMA ('ecstasy'), and synthetic proprietary sympathomimetic agents such as phenylpropanolamine and pseudoephedrine. On the vascular system they cause vasoconstriction and a rise in blood pressure. This effect is the basis of their use as nasal decongestants. For over 50 years, they have been assumed to be indirectly acting sympathomimetic amines, their responses being due to the release of noradrenaline from sympathetic neurones. There are, however, results that suggest that this is not their only mechanism of action and that they may also exert direct vascular effects independent of a noradrenergic mechanism. Recently, a group of novel trace amine-associated receptors (TAARs) have been cloned and identified in the brain and peripheral tissues including blood vessels. Trace amines bind to these cloned receptors and it is suggested that their vasoconstrictor effects can in part be attributed to this mechanism. This review describes the cardiovascular pharmacology of this diverse group of amines, their structures and uses and their endogenous synthesis and metabolism. The review also considers their clinical relevance as constituents of the diet, as therapeutic agents (ritodrine, phenylpropanolamine, and pseudoephedrine) and as drugs of abuse (amphetamine, 'ecstasy') and their mechanisms of action. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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