Subtype-selective mechanisms of negative allosteric modulators binding to group I metabotropic glutamate receptors

Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2021 Aug;42(8):1354-1367. doi: 10.1038/s41401-020-00541-z. Epub 2020 Oct 29.


Group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGlu1 and mGlu5) are promising targets for multiple psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Understanding the subtype selectivity of mGlu1 and mGlu5 allosteric sites is essential for the rational design of novel modulators with single- or dual-target mechanism of action. In this study, starting from the deposited mGlu1 and mGlu5 crystal structures, we utilized computational modeling approaches integrating docking, molecular dynamics simulation, and efficient post-trajectory analysis to reveal the subtype-selective mechanism of mGlu1 and mGlu5 to 10 diverse drug scaffolds representing known negative allosteric modulators (NAMs) in the literature. The results of modeling identified six pairs of non-conserved residues and four pairs of conserved ones as critical features to distinguish the selective NAMs binding to the corresponding receptors. In addition, nine pairs of residues are beneficial to the development of novel dual-target NAMs of group I metabotropic glutamate receptors. Furthermore, the binding modes of a reported dual-target NAM (VU0467558) in mGlu1 and mGlu5 were predicted to verify the identified residues that play key roles in the receptor selectivity and the dual-target binding. The results of this study can guide rational structure-based design of novel NAMs, and the approach can be generally applicable to characterize the features of selectivity for other G-protein-coupled receptors.

Keywords: computational modeling; drug selectivity; metabotropic glutamate receptors; negative allosteric modulators; psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Regulation / drug effects*
  • Allosteric Site
  • Heterocyclic Compounds / chemistry
  • Heterocyclic Compounds / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Protein Binding
  • Receptor, Metabotropic Glutamate 5 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptor, Metabotropic Glutamate 5 / chemistry
  • Receptor, Metabotropic Glutamate 5 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / chemistry
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / metabolism*
  • Thermodynamics


  • Heterocyclic Compounds
  • Ligands
  • Receptor, Metabotropic Glutamate 5
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate
  • metabotropic glutamate receptor type 1