Advancements in therapeutically targeting orphan GPCRs

Jennifer A. Stockert, Lakshmi A. Devi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are popular biological targets for drug discovery and development. To date there are more than 140 orphan GPCRs, i.e., receptors whose endogenous ligands are unknown. Traditionally orphan GPCRs have been difficult to study and the development of therapeutic compounds targeting these receptors has been extremely slow although these GPCRs are considered important targets based on their distribution and behavioral phenotype as revealed by animals lacking the receptor. Recent advances in several methods used to study orphan receptors, including protein crystallography and homology modeling are likely to be useful in the identification of therapeutics targeting these receptors. In the past 13 years, over a dozen different Class A GPCRs have been crystallized; this trend is exciting, since homology modeling of GPCRs has previously been limited by the availability of solved structures. As the number of solved GPCR structures continues to grow so does the number of templates that can be used to generate increasingly accurate models of phylogenetically related orphan GPCRs. The availability of solved structures along with the advances in using multiple templates to build models (in combination with molecular dynamics simulations that reveal structural information not provided by crystallographic data and methods for modeling hard-to-predict flexible loop regions) have improved the quality of GPCR homology models. This, in turn, has improved the success rates of virtual ligand screens that use homology models to identify potential receptor binding compounds. Experimental testing of the predicted hits and validation using traditional GPCR pharmacological approaches can be used to drive ligand-based efforts to probe orphan receptor biology as well as to define the chemotypes and chemical scaffolds important for binding. As a result of these advances, orphan GPCRs are emerging from relative obscurity as a new class of drug targets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Volume6
Issue numberMAY
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Homology modeling
  • MD simulations
  • Protein crystallography
  • Virtual screening

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