Positive and negative allosteric modulation of metabotropic glutamate receptors: emerging therapeutic potential

Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Dec;104(3):233-44. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2004.08.010.


Metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) modulate neuronal activity in the central and peripheral nervous systems, and since their discovery have attracted considerable attention as putative therapeutic targets for a range of neurological and psychiatric disorders. A number of competitive agonists and antagonists acting at the N-terminal glutamate binding site have been identified, the majority of which are conformationally constrained or substituted amino acid analogues. These ligands have greatly facilitated investigation of the physiological and pathological roles of the receptor family. However, their utility and therapeutic potential has been restricted by relatively poor bioavailability and central nervous system (CNS) penetration, as well as limited chemical tractability and, generally, a lack of selectivity for individual mGluRs. Recently, a number of non-competitive mGluR ligands have been identified which bind within the receptor transmembrane heptahelical domain. These include both positive and negative allosteric modulators. Positive allosteric modulators do not exhibit intrinsic agonism but facilitate agonist-mediated receptor activity. Negative allosteric modulators include both non-competitive antagonists and inverse agonists. Allosteric modulation offers the potential for improved selectivity, particularly for individual receptors within the mGluR family, and enhanced chemical tractability relative to competitive agonists/antagonists. In addition, positive allosteric modulation provides a distinct, and perhaps superior, profile to receptor agonism, offering the potential for facilitation of physiologically appropriate receptor activation with reduced liability for receptor desensitisation and/or tolerance. Thus, the emerging field of positive and negative allosteric modulation of the mGluR family offers considerable promise for the development of novel therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Regulation / drug effects*
  • Allosteric Regulation / physiology
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical / trends
  • Drug Industry / trends*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / physiology
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / therapeutic use*


  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate