The Zinc-Sensing Receptor GPR39 in Physiology and as a Pharmacological Target

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Apr 8;22(8):3872. doi: 10.3390/ijms22083872.


The G-protein coupled receptor GPR39 is abundantly expressed in various tissues and can be activated by changes in extracellular Zn2+ in physiological concentrations. Previously, genetically modified rodent models have been able to shed some light on the physiological functions of GPR39, and more recently the utilization of novel synthetic agonists has led to the unraveling of several new functions in the variety of tissues GPR39 is expressed. Indeed, GPR39 seems to be involved in many important metabolic and endocrine functions, but also to play a part in inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, saliva secretion, bone formation, male fertility, addictive and depression disorders and cancer. These new discoveries offer opportunities for the development of novel therapeutic approaches against many diseases where efficient therapeutics are still lacking. This review focuses on Zn2+ as an endogenous ligand as well as on the novel synthetic agonists of GPR39, placing special emphasis on the recently discovered physiological functions and discusses their pharmacological potential.

Keywords: GPR39; GPR39 agonist; zinc; zinc signaling.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Drug Discovery* / methods
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating / drug effects
  • Ligands
  • Organ Specificity
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / agonists
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / chemistry
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Zinc / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • GPR39 protein, human
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Zinc