Trace amine-associated receptors (TAARs) are a family of G protein-coupled receptors that function as odorant receptors in the main olfactory system of vertebrates. TAARs are monoallelically expressed in primary sensory neurons where they couple to the same transduction cascade as canonical olfactory receptors and are mapped onto glomeruli within a specific region of the olfactory bulb. TAARs have a high affinity for volatile amines, a class of chemicals that are generated during the decomposition of proteins and are ubiquitous physiological metabolites that are found in body fluids. Thus, amines are proposed to play an important role in intra- and interspecific communication such as signaling the sex of the conspecific, the quality of the food source, or even the proximity of a predator. TAARs have a crucial role in the perception of these behaviorally relevant compounds as the genetic deletion of all or even individual olfactory TAARs can alter the behavioral response and reduce the sensitivity to amines. The small size of this receptor family combined with the ethological relevance of their ligands makes the TAARs an attractive model system for probing olfactory perception. This review will summarize the current knowledge on the olfactory TAARs and discuss whether they represent a unique subsystem within the main olfactory system.
Keywords: G protein-coupled receptor (GCPR); Olfaction; Olfactory receptor; Perception; Volatile amines.