G-protein-coupled receptor heteromers: function and ligand pharmacology

Br J Pharmacol. 2008 Mar;153 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S90-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0707571. Epub 2007 Nov 26.


Almost all existing models for G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are based on the occurrence of monomers. Recent studies show that many GPCRs are dimers. Therefore for some receptors dimers and not monomers are the main species interacting with hormones/neurotransmitters/drugs. There are reasons for equivocal interpretations of the data fitting to receptor dimers assuming they are monomers. Fitting data using a dimer-based model gives not only the equilibrium dissociation constants for high and low affinity binding to receptor dimers but also a 'cooperativity index' that reflects the molecular communication between monomers within the dimer. The dimer cooperativity index (D(C)) is a valuable tool that enables to interpret and quantify, for instance, the effect of allosteric regulators. For different receptors heteromerization confers a specific functional property for the receptor heteromer that can be considered as a 'dimer fingerprint'. The occurrence of heteromers with different pharmacological and signalling properties opens a complete new field to search for novel drug targets useful to combat a variety of diseases and potentially with fewer side effects. Antagonists, which are quite common marketed drugs targeting GPCRs, display variable affinities when a given receptor is expressed with different heteromeric partners. This fact should be taken into account in the development of new drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Chemical
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / chemistry
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / drug effects*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled