Tachykinins and their receptors: contributions to physiological control and the mechanisms of disease

Physiol Rev. 2014 Jan;94(1):265-301. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00031.2013.


The tachykinins, exemplified by substance P, are one of the most intensively studied neuropeptide families. They comprise a series of structurally related peptides that derive from alternate processing of three Tac genes and are expressed throughout the nervous and immune systems. Tachykinins interact with three neurokinin G protein-coupled receptors. The signaling, trafficking, and regulation of neurokinin receptors have also been topics of intense study. Tachykinins participate in important physiological processes in the nervous, immune, gastrointestinal, respiratory, urogenital, and dermal systems, including inflammation, nociception, smooth muscle contractility, epithelial secretion, and proliferation. They contribute to multiple diseases processes, including acute and chronic inflammation and pain, fibrosis, affective and addictive disorders, functional disorders of the intestine and urinary bladder, infection, and cancer. Neurokinin receptor antagonists are selective, potent, and show efficacy in models of disease. In clinical trials there is a singular success: neurokinin 1 receptor antagonists to treat nausea and vomiting. New information about the involvement of tachykinins in infection, fibrosis, and pruritus justifies further trials. A deeper understanding of disease mechanisms is required for the development of more predictive experimental models, and for the design and interpretation of clinical trials. Knowledge of neurokinin receptor structure, and the development of targeting strategies to disrupt disease-relevant subcellular signaling of neurokinin receptors, may refine the next generation of neurokinin receptor antagonists.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism
  • Receptors, Tachykinin / genetics
  • Receptors, Tachykinin / metabolism*
  • Tachykinins / genetics
  • Tachykinins / metabolism*
  • Urinary Bladder / metabolism
  • Urinary Bladder / physiopathology


  • Receptors, Tachykinin
  • Tachykinins