The Tropomyosin-related kinase (Trk) receptors are a subset of the receptor tyrosine kinase family with an important functionality in the regulation of neurotrophic signaling in the peripheral and central nervous system. As the receptors are able to mediate neuronal survival by associating with their respective neurotrophin ligands, many studies have focused on the therapeutic potential of generating small-molecule mimetic compounds that elicit agonistic effects similar to those of the natural protein ligands. To this end, various structure-based studies have led to the generation of bivalent peptide-based agonists and antibodies that selectively initiate Trk receptor signaling; however, these compounds do not possess the ideal characteristics of a potential drug. Additionally, the reliance of structure-based data to generate the compound libraries, limits the potential identification of novel chemical structures with desirable activity. Therefore, subsequent investigations utilized a cell-based apoptotic screen to facilitate the analysis of large, diverse chemical libraries of small molecules and quickly identify compounds with Trk-dependent anti-apoptotic activity. Herein, we describe the Trk agonists that have been identified by this screening methodology and summarize their in vitro and in vivo neurotrophic activity as well as their efficacy in various neurological disease models, implicating their future utility as therapeutic compounds. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Emerging recognition and activation mechanisms of receptor tyrosine kinases.
Keywords: Antidepressant; BDNF; Neurogenesis; Synthetic derivative; TrkB agonist.
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