In the pharmaceutical industry, G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the most successful group of therapeutic targets. Finding compounds that interfere with the ligand-GPCR interaction in a specific and selective way is a major focus of pharmaceutical research today. As compound libraries of large pharmaceutical companies have increased to hundreds of thousands of test compounds, there is a growing need for miniaturization of drug discovery assays to save bioreagents and to reduce the consumption of test compounds. Due to its high sensitivity combined with a femtoliter-sized measurement volume, confocal fluorescence microscopy enables designs for GPCR binding assays with tiny sample volumes. The GPCRs are prepared in the form of plasma membrane fragments from GPCR-overexpressing cells or may be integrated into virus-like particles (VLiPs). One technique to extract binding data from confocal fluorescence experiments is the socalled fluorescence intensity distribution analysis (FIDA). In this review article, we describe the applicability of FIDA to GPCR-focussed high-throughput screening (HTS) and compare FIDA to two other GPCR-adaptable drug discovery techniques for ligand binding studies, the scintillation proximity assay (SPA) and macroscopic fluorescence polarization (FP) measurements. FIDA measures the absolute concentrations of both GPCR-bound and unbound ligand, thereby providing an internal control to the drug screening data. FIDA is amenable to work with relatively low amounts of GPCRs so that the assay may be carried out with biomembranes of a low GPCR density. Moreover, the fluorescence intensity readout of the FIDA technique may be combined with other confocal fluorescence readouts such as fluorescence anisotropy or lifetime. The combination of a low sample volume with an information-rich measurement means that confocal fluorescence spectroscopy can bring substantial benefits as a bioassay platform to pharmaceutical GPCRdirected research.
Keywords: confocal fluorescence, g-protein coupled receptors, high-throughput screening, binding assays, virus-like particles, fluorescence intensity distribution analysis
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