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New Strategies in Drug Discovery for GPCRs: High Throughput Detection of Cellular ERK Phosphorylation

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G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are a large family of receptors for a wide range of stimulants, including hormones, neurotransmitters, and taste and olfactory chemicals. Due to their broad involvement in cellular responses, GPCRs affect many important body functions both in health and disease. Compared to other receptor families, the GPCRs have been a rich source of extracellularly-acting pharmaceuticals, due largely to the fact that many GPCR ligands are small molecules when compared with ligands for other receptors, such as the tyrosine kinase receptor family. This has allowed the development of small molecule modulators of receptor function that act on specific GPCRs, such as those involved in cardiovascular regulation. However, at several levels, current screening technologies of drug development for GPCRs are lacking. Firstly, responses from many GPCRs, such as the Gi-coupled GPCRs, are not easily measured in large screening programs by current techniques. Secondly, there are few options for detecting agonists of orphan GPCRs. Thirdly, it is now clear that the signaling from GPCRs is more complex than once thought, and the measurement of Ca2+ and cAMP can account for only a fraction of the biological information emanating from an activated GPCR. Studies of the discrete and sometimes separable activation of the Ras/Raf/Mek/ERK cascade by many GPCRs is likely to offer development of new agonists and antagonists, contribute to new pharmacologies from receptors, and raise the potential for novel drug candidates in this important area of biology.

Downstream activation of the ERK pathway, with or without transactivation of growth factor receptors, has not been measurable by high throughput methodologies. This article presents recent advances and associated applications for screening of GPCRs and other receptor species through the rapid measurement of protein phosphorylation events, such as ERK phosphorylation, as new readouts for drug discovery.

Keywords: ERK; G-protein; GPCR; HTS; SureFire; assay; homogeneous; screening

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: TGR BioSciences, 31 Dalgleish Street, Thebarton 5031, Australia.

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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  • Combinatorial Chemistry & High Throughput Screening publishes full length original research articles and reviews describing various topics in combinatorial chemistry (e.g. small molecules, peptide, nucleic acid or phage display libraries) and/or high throughput screening (e.g. developmental, practical or theoretical). Ancillary subjects of key importance, such as robotics and informatics, will also be covered by the journal. In these respective subject areas, Combinatorial Chemistry & High Throughput Screening is intended to function as the most comprehensive and up-to-date medium available. The journal should be of value to individuals engaged in the process of drug discoveryand development, in the settings of industry, academia or government.
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