Computational Advances for the Development of Allosteric Modulators and Bitopic Ligands in G Protein-Coupled Receptors

AAPS J. 2015 Sep;17(5):1080-95. doi: 10.1208/s12248-015-9776-y. Epub 2015 May 5.


Allosteric modulators of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), which target at allosteric sites, have significant advantages against the corresponding orthosteric compounds including higher selectivity, improved chemical tractability or physicochemical properties, and reduced risk of receptor oversensitization. Bitopic ligands of GPCRs target both orthosteric and allosteric sites. Bitopic ligands can improve binding affinity, enhance subtype selectivity, stabilize receptors, and reduce side effects. Discovering allosteric modulators or bitopic ligands for GPCRs has become an emerging research area, in which the design of allosteric modulators is a key step in the detection of bitopic ligands. Radioligand binding and functional assays ([(35)S]GTPγS and ERK1/2 phosphorylation) are used to test the effects for potential modulators or bitopic ligands. High-throughput screening (HTS) in combination with disulfide trapping and fragment-based screening are used to aid the discovery of the allosteric modulators or bitopic ligands of GPCRs. When used alone, these methods are costly and can often result in too many potential drug targets, including false positives. Alternatively, low-cost and efficient computational approaches are useful in drug discovery of novel allosteric modulators and bitopic ligands to help refine the number of targets and reduce the false-positive rates. This review summarizes the state-of-the-art computational methods for the discovery of modulators and bitopic ligands. The challenges and opportunities for future drug discovery are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Regulation
  • Allosteric Site
  • Computer Simulation
  • Computer-Aided Design*
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Discovery / methods
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled