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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Jun 21;102(25):9050-5. Epub 2005 Jun 2.

A heterodimer-selective agonist shows in vivo relevance of G protein-coupled receptor dimers.

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Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94608, USA.


There has been much speculation regarding the functional relevance of G protein-coupled receptor heterodimers, primarily because demonstrating their existence in vivo has proven to be a considerable challenge. Here we show that the opioid agonist ligand 6'-guanidinonaltrindole (6'-GNTI) has the unique property of selectively activating only opioid receptor heterodimers but not homomers. Importantly, 6'-GNTI is an analgesic, thereby demonstrating that opioid receptor heterodimers are indeed functionally relevant in vivo. However, 6'-GNTI induces analgesia only when it is administered in the spinal cord but not in the brain, suggesting that the organization of heterodimers is tissue-specific. This study demonstrates a proof of concept for tissue-selective drug targeting based on G protein-coupled receptor heterodimerization. Importantly, targeting opioid heterodimers could provide an approach toward the design of analgesic drugs with reduced side effects.

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