The mammalian bombesin receptor family comprises three G protein-coupled heptahelical receptors: the neuromedin B (NMB) receptor (BB(1)), the gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) receptor (BB(2)), and the orphan receptor bombesin receptor subtype 3 (BRS-3) (BB(3)). Each receptor is widely distributed, especially in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and central nervous system (CNS), and the receptors have a large range of effects in both normal physiology and pathophysiological conditions. The mammalian bombesin peptides, GRP and NMB, demonstrate a broad spectrum of pharmacological/biological responses. GRP stimulates smooth muscle contraction and GI motility, release of numerous GI hormones/neurotransmitters, and secretion and/or hormone release from the pancreas, stomach, colon, and numerous endocrine organs and has potent effects on immune cells, potent growth effects on both normal tissues and tumors, potent CNS effects, including regulation of circadian rhythm, thermoregulation; anxiety/fear responses, food intake, and numerous CNS effects on the GI tract as well as the spinal transmission of chronic pruritus. NMB causes contraction of smooth muscle, has growth effects in various tissues, has CNS effects, including effects on feeding and thermoregulation, regulates thyroid-stimulating hormone release, stimulates various CNS neurons, has behavioral effects, and has effects on spinal sensory transmission. GRP, and to a lesser extent NMB, affects growth and/or differentiation of various human tumors, including colon, prostate, lung, and some gynecologic cancers. Knockout studies show that BB(3) has important effects in energy balance, glucose homeostasis, control of body weight, lung development and response to injury, tumor growth, and perhaps GI motility. This review summarizes advances in our understanding of the biology/pharmacology of these receptors, including their classification, structure, pharmacology, physiology, and role in pathophysiological conditions.
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