Challenges and opportunities of trapping ligands

Mol Pharmacol. 2007 Aug;72(2):231-4. doi: 10.1124/mol.107.038208. Epub 2007 May 23.


Because gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogs constitute an important class of therapeutics for various reproductive and hormone-dependent disorders, many novel compounds have been discovered and studied. Several orally active nonpeptide GnRH antagonists have recently gained increased attention. In the study published in this issue of Molecular Pharmacology, Kohout et al. (p. 238) used small-molecule TAK-013 (sufugolix; developed previously by Takeda Chemical Industries) as a tool to elucidate the mechanism of its insurmountable antagonism. On the basis of receptor mutagenesis combined with molecular modeling, the authors hypothesized that certain amino acid sequences uniquely present in the human GnRH receptor amino terminus and extracellular loop 2 may form a "trap door" retarding dissociation of TAK-013. Such a trapping mechanism could be both ligand- and receptor species-specific. Although analogous models were previously proposed for other G protein-coupled receptors, the study by Kohout et al. (2007) provides an important advance in the GnRH antagonists field and an illustration of the fact that preclinical studies using animal models with nonhuman receptors may have very limited value in predicting drug efficacy in human disease. There are many examples showing that high-affinity protein, peptide, or nonpeptide agonists or antagonists have also enhanced clinical efficacy. However, there are also numerous studies indicating that very high receptor binding affinity is not a guarantee of drug efficacy and that other factors, including pharmacokinetic profile, ligand-induced receptor desensitization, and "trafficking," are critical in design and development of optimal drugs.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Phenylurea Compounds / metabolism*
  • Phenylurea Compounds / pharmacology
  • Pyrimidinones / metabolism*
  • Pyrimidinones / pharmacology
  • Receptors, LHRH / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptors, LHRH / chemistry*
  • Receptors, LHRH / metabolism


  • 5-(N-benzyl-N-methylaminomethyl)-1--(2,6-difluorobenzyl)-6-(4-(3-methoxyureido)phenyl)-3-phenylthieno(2,3-d)pyrimidine-2,4(1H,3H)-dione
  • Ligands
  • Phenylurea Compounds
  • Pyrimidinones
  • Receptors, LHRH