One of the major hurdles in the development of safe and effective drugs targeting G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) is finding ligands that are highly selective for a specific receptor subtype. Structural understanding of subtype-specific binding pocket variations and ligand-receptor interactions may greatly facilitate design of selective ligands. To gain insights into the structural basis of ligand subtype selectivity within the family of adenosine receptors (AR: A(1), A(2A), A(2B), and A(3)) we generated 3D models of all four subtypes using the recently determined crystal structure of the A(A2)AR as a template, and employing the methodology of ligand-guided receptor optimization for refinement. This approach produced 3D conformational models of AR subtypes that effectively explain binding modes and subtype selectivity for a diverse set of known AR antagonists. Analysis of the subtype-specific ligand-receptor interactions allowed identification of the major determinants of ligand selectivity, which may facilitate discovery of more efficient drug candidates.
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