Can we discover pharmacological promiscuity early in the drug discovery process?

Drug Discov Today. 2012 Apr;17(7-8):325-35. doi: 10.1016/j.drudis.2012.01.001. Epub 2012 Jan 16.


The term 'pharmacological promiscuity' describes the activity of a single compound against multiple targets. When undesired, promiscuity is a major safety concern that needs to be detected as early as possible in the drug discovery process. The analysis of large datasets reveals that the majority of promiscuous compounds are characterized by recognizable molecular properties and structural motifs, the most important one being a basic center with a pK(a)(B)>6. These compounds interact with a small set of targets such as aminergic GPCRs; some of these targets attract surprisingly high hit rates. In this review, we discuss current trends in the assessment of pharmacological promiscuity and propose strategies to enable early detection and mitigation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Discovery / methods*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry*
  • Pharmacology
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations