Drug design strategies for targeting G-protein-coupled receptors

Chembiochem. 2002 Oct 4;3(10):928-44. doi: 10.1002/1439-7633(20021004)3:10<928::AID-CBIC928>3.0.CO;2-5.


G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) form a large protein family that plays an important role in many physiological and pathophysiological processes. Since the sequencing of the human genome has revealed several hundred new members of this receptor family, many new opportunities for developing novel therapeutics have emerged. The increasing knowledge of GPCRs (biological target space) and their ligands (chemical ligand space) enables novel drug design strategies to accelerate the finding and optimization of GPCR leads: The crystal structure of rhodopsin provides the first three-dimensional GPCR information, which now supports homology modeling studies and structure-based drug design approaches within the GPCR target family. On the other hand, the classical ligand-based design approaches (for example, virtual screening, pharmacophore modeling, quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR)) are still powerful methods for lead finding and optimization. In addition, the cross-target analysis of GPCR ligands has revealed more and more common structural motifs and three-dimensional pharmacophores. Such GPCR privileged structural motifs have been successfully used by many pharmaceutical companies to design and synthesize combinatorial libraries, which are subsequently tested against novel GPCR targets for lead finding. In the near future structural biology and chemogenomics might allow the mapping of the ligand binding to the receptor. The linking of chemical and biological spaces will aid in generating lead-finding libraries, which are tailor-made for their respective receptor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Combinatorial Chemistry Techniques
  • Drug Design
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / classification
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / pharmacology
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutagenesis
  • Protein Conformation
  • Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Rats
  • Receptor, Angiotensin, Type 1
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2 / chemistry
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Angiotensin / chemistry
  • Receptors, Angiotensin / metabolism*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Ligands
  • Receptor, Angiotensin, Type 1
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2
  • Receptors, Angiotensin
  • GTP-Binding Proteins