Orphan G-protein-coupled receptors: the next generation of drug targets?

Br J Pharmacol. 1998 Dec;125(7):1387-92. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0702238.


The pharmaceutical industry has readily embraced genomics to provide it with new targets for drug discovery. Large scale DNA sequencing has allowed the identification of a plethora of DNA sequences distantly related to known G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), a superfamily of receptors that have a proven history of being excellent therapeutic targets. In most cases the extent of sequence homology is insufficient to assign these 'orphan' receptors to a particular receptor subfamily. Consequently, reverse molecular pharmacological and functional genomic strategies are being employed to identify the activating ligands of the cloned receptors. Briefly, the reverse molecular pharmacological methodology includes cloning and expression of orphan GPCRs in mammalian cells and screening these cells for a functional response to cognate or surrogate agonists present in biological extract preparations, peptide libraries, and complex compound collections. The functional genomics approach involves the use of 'humanized yeast cells, where the yeast GPCR transduction system is engineered to permit functional expression and coupling of human GPCRs to the endogenous signalling machinery. Both systems provide an excellent platform for identifying novel receptor ligands. Once activating ligands are identified they can be used as pharmacological tools to explore receptor function and relationship to disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Drug Industry
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / drug effects
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*


  • Peptides
  • Receptors, Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • GTP-Binding Proteins