The discovery of drugs for obesity, the metabolic effects of leptin and variable receptor pharmacology: perspectives from beta3-adrenoceptor agonists

Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2008 Aug;378(2):225-40. doi: 10.1007/s00210-008-0271-1. Epub 2008 Jul 9.


Although beta3-adrenoceptor (beta3AR) agonists have not become drugs for the treatment of obesity or diabetes, they offer perspectives on obesity drug discovery, the physiology of energy expenditure and receptor pharmacology. beta3AR agonists, some of which also stimulate other betaARs in humans, selectively stimulate fat oxidation in rodents and humans. This appears to be why they improve insulin sensitivity and reduce body fat whilst preserving lean body mass. Regulatory authorities ask that novel anti-obesity drugs improve insulin sensitivity and reduce mainly body fat. Drugs that act on different targets to stimulate fat oxidation may also offer these benefits. Stimulation of energy expenditure may be easy to detect only when the sympathetic nervous system is activated. Leptin resembles beta3AR agonists in that it increases fat oxidation, energy expenditure and insulin sensitivity. This is partly because it raises sympathetic activity, but it may also promote fat oxidation by directly stimulating muscle leptin receptors. The beta1AR and beta2AR can, like the beta3AR, display atypical pharmacologies. Moreover, the beta3AR can display variable pharmacologies of its own, depending on the radioligand used in binding studies or the functional response measured. Studies on the beta3AR demonstrate both the difficulties of predicting the in vivo effects of agonist drugs from in vitro data and that there may be opportunities for identifying drugs that act at a single receptor but have different profiles in vivo.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-3 Receptor Agonists*
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / pharmacology*
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Leptin / metabolism*
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-3 / history
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-3 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Leptin / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Leptin / metabolism


  • Adrenergic beta-3 Receptor Agonists
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Leptin
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-3
  • Receptors, Leptin