Blog Archives

Hot Topics: Soluble ligands as drug targets

Historically, the main classes of drug targets have been receptors, enzymes, ion channels and transporters which are primarily targeted by small molecules. However, advances in molecular biology, genomics, and pharmacology have facilitated the development of different therapeutic modalities which in

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Hot Topics: TMEM163 regulates ATP-gated P2X receptor and behaviour

It is now clear that ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs) are not “stand alone” functional units, but form complexes with other components, including scaffolding proteins, regulatory proteins and enzymes. Besides their important physiological roles, these modulating proteins are also potential targets

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Hot Topics: A trio of GPCR peptide publications

This post covers three recent publications with a common theme and whose authors are collaborators with GtoPdb, thus making them as a trio particularly suitable for combined review.  These are; Discovery of Human Signaling Systems: Pairing Peptides to G Protein-Coupled

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Hot Topics: Virtual screening on the crystal structure of the G protein-coupled melatonin MT1 receptor reveals several new chemical scaffolds with biological activity

Melatonin targets two high-affinity receptors, MT1 and MT2, that belong to the G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) superfamily (1,2). Drugs acting on melatonin receptors are subscribed for circadian disorders (jet lag, shift work, etc.), insomnia and major depression (3). All marketed

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Hot Topics: Cardiac Ca2+ Channel Regulation in the Fight-or-Flight Response: the monomeric small G-protein as another piece in the puzzle

Thirty eight years after the discovery that injection of the catalytic subunits of cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA) into isolated pig ventricular cardiac myocytes (1) increases the amplitude of L-type Ca2+ current (today known to be formed by Cav1.2

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Hot topics: Cannabinoid receptor stuctures

Two new reports cover further aspects of cannabinoid receptor binding as defined using cryo-EM. These expand on previous reports of the structure of the human CB1 cannabinoid receptor with the antagonists taranabant and  AM6538 bound, and with the agonists MDMB-FUBINACA,

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Hot Topics: A brief update on coronaviruses

The new respiratory coronavirus from Wuhan in China is causing intense research activity in the world. Viruses are evidently associated with respiratory infections ranging in severity from the common cold to pneumonia and death

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Hot Topics: Cryo-EM structure of a selective T-type calcium channel blocker bound to the Cav3.1 voltage-gated calcium channel

Nieng Yan’s group has now published the cryo-EM structure of the selective T-type Ca2+ channel blocker Z944 bound to the pore-forming α1-subunit of Cav3.1 T-type Ca2+ channels (1). This nicely adds to recent publications reporting of the high-resolution structures of

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Hot Topics: Deciphering the crystal structure of the leukotriene receptor CysLT2 opens up for improved therapeutics

Leukotrienes are lipid mediators of inflammation, initially recognized for their role in asthma, but also having potent effects in for example cardiovascular and neurological diseases as well as in cancer. The initial pharmacological classification of leukotriene receptors based on antagonist

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Hot Topics: New crystal structure of the muscarinic M5 receptor completes the set

Muscarinic receptors consist of 5 G protein-coupled receptors which along with nicotinic ion channels mediate the effects of acetylcholine. Despite years of research on the role of muscarinic receptors in the brain and periphery the Muscarinic M5 receptor has stood

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Hot Topics: 3D structure of the full-length P2X7 receptor provides insight into factors controlling agonist potency and receptor desensitisation

P2X receptors are ligand-gated cation channels for which ATP is the endogenous orthosteric agonist. Seven P2X subunits have been identified and they form trimers to produce at least twelve different receptor subtypes. The tertiary structure of several subtypes have been

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Hot Topics: GPR139 as a potential target for increasing opioid safety

The cross-talk between different G protein-coupled receptor signal-transduction pathways is an intriguing concept with important physiological implications [1]. A recent study by Wang et al. [2] has discovered that the actions of opioid drugs on the μ-opioid receptor (MOR) are

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Hot Topics: Resting-State Structure and Gating Mechanism of a Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel

In this report the Catterall laboratory succeeded in solving the high resolution structure of a voltage-gated Na+-channel (Nav) in its resting state (1). Why is this difficult and why is this important? It is difficult because Navs exist in the

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Hot Topics: The atlas of aminergic GPCR mutagenesis

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are an important family of signal-transducing membrane proteins capable of binding various types of ligands from the extracellular space and activating various signalling pathways inside the cell, rendering them one of the largest protein target families

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Database Release 2019.3

We have now made the third IUPHAR/BPS Guide to Pharmacology database release of 2019 (2019.3). It includes updates focussed on preparation for the next edition of The Concise Guide to PHARMACOLOGY (2019/20), due out later this year. Content Updates GtoPdb

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Hot Topics: Time to FRET about GPCR activation dynamics?

G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are crucial for the transduction of extracellular stimuli to the intracellular space. Upon activation, GPCRs undergo large conformational changes to engage transducers and stimulate intracellular responses. However, the kinetics of agonist induced GPCR conformational changes

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Hot Topics: Rise up against statistical significance, probably.

A recent commentary in Nature has the provocative title “Retire Statistical Significance” (1, with a list of more than 800 signatories) and has been widely interpreted as a call for the entire concept of statistical significance to be abandoned. Closer

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Hot Topics: Exciting Times for Ion Channel Pharmacology

Whilst life is always exciting as an ion channel pharmacologist, the last few months have been particularly so, with a large number of publications showing structures of ion channels with regulatory molecules bound to them. In just the last month,

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Hot Topics: Ligand biological activity predicted by cleaning positive and negative chemical correlations

New machine learning algorithm for drug discovery that is twice as efficient as the industry standard and identified potential ligands for the M1 receptor, a potential target for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. A paper from Lee et al. [1]

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Hot Topics: An online resource for GPCR structure determination and analysis

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) transduce physiological and sensory stimuli into appropriate cellular responses and mediate the actions of one-third of drugs. Structures of GPCRs are therefore extremely valuable for understanding basic receptor function and rational drug design. Today, 310 structures

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Hot Topics: New Cannabinoid Receptors Structures

Cannabinoid receptors respond to multiple endogenous fatty acid derivatives and are often divided into neuronal-associated CB1 receptors and immune cell-associated CB2 receptors. Both receptors are GPCR, coupled predominantly to Gi, and have cytoprotective properties. The predominant psychotropic agent in Cannabis, THC,

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Hot Topics: GPR37/GPR37L1 and the putative pairing with prosaptide/PSAP

Comments by Dr. Nicola J. Smith, National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow & Group Leader, Molecular Pharmacology Laboratory, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Australia As is often the case with orphan GPCRs, assigning the endogenous ligand has been controversial for the

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Hot Topics: Somatic APP gene recombination in normal and Alzheimer’s disease neurons

A new facet of the human brain has been reported [1] involving a first example of somatic gene recombination in neurons, representing a normal neural mechanism whose disruption could underlie the most common (sporadic) forms of Alzheimer’s disease. Mosaic and

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Hot Topics: Cellular thermal shift assays to measure ligand-to-target engagement

The cellular thermal shift assay (CETSA) was introduced in July of 2013 as a means to investigate drug target engagement inside live cells and tissues (1). The underlying principle of CETSA is simple – it relies on the thermostability of

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Hot Topics: Piezo channels and mechano-transduction in sensory neurons

Piezo channels (Piezo1 and Piezo2) are excitatory ion channels which respond directly to a variety of forms of mechanical stimuli. Two recent papers describe some of the critical roles of Piezo channels in sensory neuron transduction (1, 2). In the

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Hot Topics: Role of RTP type D on reward association with cocaine administration

The receptor tyrosine phosphatase (RTP) family is a relatively small group of cell-surface proteins with a simple intracellular enzymatic function in the dephosphorylation of phosphotyrosine proteins. There is less known about the endogenous extracellular ligands which regulate RTP activities in

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Hot topic: (but in this case, stale beer) the long overdue primary pharmacological characterisation of BIA 10-2747

The unfortunate French clinical trial disaster in which the FAAH inhibitor BIA 10-2747 (ligand ID 9001)  left one participant dead and several others with serious neurological adverse events, occurred back in January 2016.  However, the primary publication that describes the properties

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Hot Topics: Cryo-EM structure of the active, Gs-protein complexed, human CGRP receptor

In this multi-author, multi-centre publication [1] lead by Denise Wootten and Patrick Sexton from the Monash Institute of Pharmacological Sciences, there is reported a 3.3 Angstrom structure of one of the more unusual G protein-coupled receptors. The CGRP receptor is

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Hot Topics: β-Subunit of the voltage-gated Ca2+ channel Cav1.2 drives signaling to the nucleus via H-Ras

This paper [1] extends previous studies demonstrating a key role of voltage-gated L-type Ca2+ channels in the modulation of activity-dependent gene transcription. Earlier work in cultured neurons had already shown that L-type channel activity is required to activate gene expression

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July 2018 News, Updates and Hot Topics

July 2018 News, Updates and Hot Topics Database release 2018.3: Our third database release of the year, 2018.3, is now available. This update contains the following new features and content changes: Updates across several target classes. The existing Antimalarial targets

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Hot Topics: Direct activation of neuronal KV7 channels by GABA and gabapentin – a novel mechanism for reducing neuronal excitability

The potassium channels KV7.2-KV7.5 (KCNQ2-5; GtoPdb target IDs 561-564) regulate neuronal excitability in the mammalian nervous system. The best characterised neuronal KV7 channels give rise to the M current (1) and are mediated predominantly by hetero-tetramers of KV7.2 and KV7.3

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Hot topic: New pharmacological tools reiterate lack of direct connection between Angiotensin 1–7 and the MAS1 GPCR

A new type of deorphanization conundrum confronted in pairing the GPCR, MAS1 with the hormonal peptide angiotensin 1–7 (Ang1-7) was emphasised in recent IUPHAR reviews (1, 2). More evidence for disconnection between Ang1-7 and MAS1 is presented in the recent

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Hot Topic: Structural details for coupling of the agonist-occupied µ opioid receptor (amongst others) to the Gi protein

Every few years in the field of receptor pharmacology, a technological advance occurs that drives the field forward in terms of insight and understanding. Over the past couple of years, the cryo-EM technique (the development of which won the 2017

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Hot Topic: Systems Medicine, Disease Maps and the future of Systems Biology

What will Systems Biology look like in the future? Up to now, it has focussed on the development of standards, software tools and databases that enabled us to study the dynamics of physiological function mechanistically. However as these tools and

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Hot topic: Structure of the adenosine-bound human adenosine A1 receptor–Gi complex

The A1 adenosine receptor is, for most people, a molecular target they can become conscious of when they block it, which happens frequently. Rapid consumption of higher doses of caffeine, in products like Italian espresso or Turkish coffee, provokes a

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Commentary on the distinction between Cannabis and cannabinoids

The Cannabis plant is a natural product from which more than 100 apparently unique metabolites (cannabinoids) have been identified. Many of these have been found in human plasma following consumption of Cannabis preparations. The most well-recognised is tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, because

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Hot topic (update): from double to triple whammy for BACE1 inhibitors

19 June 2018 update. Announced only about a week after the events described below,  yet a third clinical candidate, lanabecestat  (AZD-3293, LY3314814) has also bitten the dust (4).  The two PhIII trials were stopped because they were deemed unlikely to meet their

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Hot topic: Cryo-EM structure of the adenosine A2A receptor coupled to an engineered heterotrimeric G protein

The A2A adenosine receptor is densely expressed in dopamine-rich areas of the brain and in the vasculature. It is the target of an adjunct medication for Parkinson’s Disease, istradefylline in Japan, an A2A receptor antagonist. The A2A adenosine receptor is an example

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Hot topic: Conformational plasticity in the selectivity filter of the TRPV2 ion channel

The TRPV2 ion channel is the less well-characterised relative of the TRPV1 or vanilloid receptor that is activated by capsaicin. TRPV2 channels have many similarities to the TRPV1 channels, in that they are homotetrameric and respond to some of the same

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Hot topic: 3D structure of the P2X3 receptor bound to a negative allosteric modifier, identifies a binding site that is a target for development of novel therapeutic agents

Negative allosteric modulators (NAMs) are of great interest in drug development because they offer improved scope for the production of receptor antagonists with enhanced subtype-selectivity. Indeed, many NAMs are already on the market or undergoing clinical trials. NAMs act by

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Hot topic: 3D structures of the closed acid-sensing ion channel (ASIC) shed light on the activation mechanism of these neuronal ion channels

ASICs are potential drug targets of interest. Their activation mechanism has however remained elusive. ASICs are neuronal, proton-gated, sodium-permeable channels that are expressed in the central and peripheral nervous system of vertebrates. They form a subfamily of the Epithelial Na

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Hot topic: Engineered mini G proteins provide a useful tool for studying the activation of GPCRs in living cells

In order to stabilize the GPCR-G protein complex, an agonist must be bound to the receptor and the alpha subunit of the heterotrimer must be in a nucleotide-free state. Ground-breaking work by expert crystallographers made use of so-called mini G

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Hot Topic: Unexplored therapeutic opportunities in the human genome

Contemporary drug discovery is dominated by two related  themes. The first of these is target validation upon which the sustainability of pharmaceutical R&D (in both the commercial and academic sectors) crucially depends.  The second is the size of the pool of human

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Hot topic: The G Protein-Coupled Receptors deorphanization landscape.

Within the vast GPCR superfamily, orphans are described as receptors devoid of known endogenous ligands. They have been labeled as 7 transmembrane proteins by sequence homology and dispatched accordingly in the different GPCR subfamilies. They have attracted much attention given

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Hot topic: Pharmacogenomics of GPCR Drug Targets

A system of rigorous clinical trials and regulation exist to ensure that a new drug is safe and effective when reaching the market. However, natural human genetic variation(s) may cause individuals to respond differently to the same medication. A collaboration

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Hot topic: Trends in GPCR drug discovery: new agents, targets and indications

New avenues for GPCR drug discovery have emerged owing to recent advances in receptor pharmacology, technological breakthroughs in structural biology and innovations in biotechnology. A collaboration between the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology, University of Copenhagen (home of the

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Hot topic: Cryo-EM structures of Mucolipin TRP Channels in the Lysosome: Five Together at Once

The mucolipin subfamily of Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) channels, which consist of TRPML1, TRPML2, and TRPML3 (a.k.a. MCOLN1- 3), are Ca2+-permeable cation channels localized in intracellular endosomes and lysosomes. In response to cellular stimulation, TRPMLs mediate Ca2+ release from the

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Hot topic: A new research avenue investigating mitochondrial GPCR biology

As one of the first propositions for GPCRs being present in mitochondrial membranes, a recent report from Robert Friedlander and colleagues [1] follows on from previous work characterising synaptic and extrasynaptic mitochondria in human cortex (post-mortem samples) and their role

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Hot topic: Crystal structure of LPA6, a receptor for lysophosphatidic acid, at 3.2A

Lysophospholipids (LPs) have myriad roles as extracellular signals that activate cognate G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) (2). LPs for which receptors have been reported include lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) (receptors: LPA1-6), sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P1-5), lysophosphatidyl serine (LPS1-3, 2L (2L is a pseudogene

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Hot topic: FZD6 dimers dissociate after stimulation – briefly

GPCRs of all classes are widely thought to form homodimers, heterodimers and higher-order oligomers. The functional significance of dimerization is well understood for Class C receptors but less certain for the other GPCR classes, including the rather unconventional class F

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