A pharmacological primer of biased agonism

Endocr Metab Immune Disord Drug Targets. 2011 Jun;11(2):92-8. doi: 10.2174/187153011795564179.


Biased agonism is one of the fastest growing topics in G protein-coupled receptor pharmacology; moreover, biased agonists are used in the clinic today: carvedilol (Coreg®) is a biased agonist of beta-adrenergic receptors. However, there is a general lack of understanding of biased agonism when compared to traditional pharmacological terminology. Therefore, this review is designed to provide a basic introduction to classical pharmacology as well as G protein-coupled receptor signal transduction in order to clearly explain biased agonism for the non-scientist clinician and pharmacist. Special emphasis is placed on biased agonists of the beta-adrenergic receptors, as these drugs are highly prescribed, and a hypothetical scenario based on current clinical practices and proposed mechanisms for treating disease is discussed in order to demonstrate the need for a more thorough understanding of biased agonism in clinical settings. Since biased agonism provides a novel mechanism for treating disease, greater emphasis is being placed to develop biased agonists; therefore, it is important for biased agonism to be understood in equal measure of traditional pharmacological concepts. This review, along with many others, can be used to teach the basic concepts of biased agonism, and this review also serves to introduce the subsequent reviews that examine, in more depth, the relevance of biased agonism towards the angiotensin type 1 receptor, parathyroid hormone receptor, and natural biased ligands towards chemokine receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Partial Agonism
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Models, Biological
  • Pharmacological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / agonists*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled