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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2009 Nov;331(2):340-8. doi: 10.1124/jpet.109.156380. Epub 2009 Aug 10.

Allosteric modulators of g protein-coupled receptors: future therapeutics for complex physiological disorders.

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Receptor Pharmacology Unit, and Metabolism Unit, the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging, Baltimore, Maryland 21224, USA.


G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are one of the most important classes of proteins in the genome, not only because of their tremendous molecular diversity but because they are the targets of nearly 50% of current pharmacotherapeutics. The majority of these drugs affect GPCR activity by binding to a similar molecular site as the endogenous cognate ligand for the receptor. These "orthosterically" targeted drugs currently dominate the existing pharmacopeia. Over the past two decades, novel opportunities for drug discovery have risen from a greater understanding of the complexity of GPCR signaling. A striking example of this is the appreciation that many GPCRs possess functional allosteric binding sites. Allosteric modulator ligands bind receptor domains topographically distinct from the orthosteric site, altering the biological activity of the orthosteric ligand by changing its binding affinity, functional efficacy, or both. This additional receptor signaling complexity can be embraced and exploited for the next generation of GPCR-targeted therapies. Despite the challenges associated with detecting and quantifying the myriad of possible allosteric effects on GPCR activity, allosteric ligands offer the prospect of engendering a facile stimulus-bias in orthosteric ligand signaling, paving the way for not only receptor-selective but also signaling pathway-selective therapies. Allosteric modulators possess specific advantages when considering the treatment of multifactorial syndromes, such as metabolic diseases or age-related cognitive impairment, because they may not greatly affect neurotransmitter or hormone release patterns, thus maintaining the integrity of complex signaling networks that underlie perception, memory patterns, or neuroendocrinological axes while introducing therapeutically beneficial signal bias.

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