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Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2012 Mar;33(3):363-71. doi: 10.1038/aps.2011.210. Epub 2012 Feb 27.

Orphan G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs): biological functions and potential drug targets.

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Shanghai Key Laboratory of Regulatory Biology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, China.


The superfamily of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) includes at least 800 seven-transmembrane receptors that participate in diverse physiological and pathological functions. GPCRs are the most successful targets of modern medicine, and approximately 36% of marketed pharmaceuticals target human GPCRs. However, the endogenous ligands of more than 140 GPCRs remain unidentified, leaving the natural functions of those GPCRs in doubt. These are the so-called orphan GPCRs, a great source of drug targets. This review focuses on the signaling transduction pathways of the adhesion GPCR family, the LGR subfamily, and the PSGR subfamily, and their potential functions in immunology, development, and cancers. In this review, we present the current approaches and difficulties of orphan GPCR deorphanization and characterization.

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