Expanding the number of 'druggable' targets: non-enzymes and protein-protein interactions

Chem Biol Drug Des. 2013 Jan;81(1):22-32. doi: 10.1111/cbdd.12066.


Following sequencing and assembly of the human genome, the preferred methods for identification of new drug targets have changed dramatically. Modern tactics such as genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and deep sequencing are fundamentally different from the pharmacology-guided approaches used previously, in which knowledge of small molecule ligands acting at their cellular targets was the primary discovery engine. A consequence of the 'target-first, pharmacology-second' strategy is that many predicted drug targets are non-enzymes, such as scaffolding, regulatory or structural proteins, and their activities are often dependent on protein-protein interactions (PPIs). These types of targets create unique challenges to drug discovery efforts because enzymatic turnover cannot be used as a convenient surrogate for compound potency. Moreover, it is often challenging to predict how ligand binding to non-enzymes might affect changes in protein function and/or pathobiology. Thus, in the postgenomic era, targets might be strongly implicated by molecular biology-based methods, yet they often later earn the designation of 'undruggable'. Can the scope of available targets be widened to include these promising, but challenging, non-enzymes? In this review, we discuss advances in high-throughput screening (HTS) technology and chemical library design that are emerging to deal with these challenges.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Drug Design
  • Genome, Human
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Protein Interaction Maps*
  • Protein Stability
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Small Molecule Libraries / chemistry


  • Ligands
  • Proteins
  • Small Molecule Libraries