Agmatine, the decarboxylation product of arginine, was largely neglected as an important player in mammalian metabolism until the mid-1990s, when it was re-discovered as an endogenous ligand of imidazoline and α2-adrenergic receptors. Since then, a wide variety of agmatine-mediated effects have been observed, and consequently agmatine has moved from a wallflower existence into the limelight of clinical neuroscience research. Despite this quantum jump in scientific interest, the understanding of the anabolism and catabolism of this amine is still vague. The purification and biochemical characterization of natural mammalian arginine decarboxylase and agmatinase still are open issues. Nevertheless, the agmatinergic system is currently one of the most promising candidates in order to pharmacologically interfere with some major diseases of the central nervous system, which are summarized in the present review. Particularly with respect to major depression, agmatine, its derivatives, and metabolizing enzymes show great promise for the development of an improved treatment of this common disease.

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