The 7 TM G-Protein-Coupled Receptor Target Family


  • This review will appear later as a chapter in the book Chemical Biology—From Small Molecules to Systems Biology and Drug Design (Eds.: S. Schreiber, T. Kapoor, G. Wess), Wiley-VCH, Weinheim, which is scheduled for publication in November 2006.


Chemical biology approaches have a long history in the exploration of the G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) family, which represents the largest and most important group of targets for therapeutics. The analysis of the human genome revealed a significant number of new members with unknown physiological function which are today the focus of many reverse pharmacology drug-discovery programs. As the seven hydrophobic transmembrane segments are a defining common structural feature of these receptors, and as signaling through heterotrimeric G proteins is not demonstrated in all cases, these proteins are also referred to as seven transmembrane (7 TM) or serpentine receptors. This review summarizes important historic milestones of GPCR research, from the beginning, when pharmacology was mainly descriptive, to the age of modern molecular biology, with the cloning of the first receptor and now the availability of the entire human GPCR repertoire at the sequence and protein level. It shows how GPCR-directed drug discovery was initially based on the careful testing of a few specifically made chemical compounds and is today pursued with modern drug-discovery approaches, including combinatorial library design, structural biology, molecular informatics, and advanced screening technologies for the identification of new compounds that activate or inhibit GPCRs specifically. Such compounds, in conjunction with other new technologies, allow us to study the role of receptors in physiology and medicine, and will hopefully result in novel therapies. We also outline how basic research on the signaling and regulatory mechanisms of GPCRs is advancing, leading to the discovery of new GPCR-interacting proteins and thus opening new perspectives for drug development. Practical examples from GPCR expression studies, HTS (high-throughput screening), and the design of monoamine-related GPCR-focused combinatorial libraries illustrate ongoing GPCR chemical biology research. Finally, we outline future progress that may relate today’s discoveries to the development of new medicines.