Lysophospholipids (LPs), including lysophosphatidic acid and sphingosine 1-phosphate, produce many cellular effects. However, the prolonged absence of any cloned and identified LP receptor has left open the question of how these lipids actually bring about these effects. The cloning and functional identification of the first LP receptor, lpA1/vzg-1, has led rapidly to the identification and classification of multiple orphan receptors/expression sequence tags known by many names (e.g. edg, mrecl.3, gpcr26, H218, AGR16, nrg-1) as members of a common cognate G protein-coupled receptor family. We review features of the LP receptor family, including molecular characteristics, genomics, signaling properties, and gene expression. A major question for which only partial answers are available concerns the biological significance of receptor-mediated LP signaling. Recent studies that demonstrate the role of receptor-mediated LP signaling in the nervous system, cardiovascular system, and other organ systems indicate the importance of this signaling in development, function, and pathophysiology and portend an exciting time ahead for this growing field.
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