G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) represent the family of proteins with the highest impact from social, therapeutic and economic point of view. Today, more than 50% of drug targets are based on GPCRs and the annual worldwide sales exceeds $50 billion. GPCRs are involved in all major disease areas such as cardiovascular, metabolic, neurodegenerative, psychiatric, cancer and infectious diseases. The classical drug discovery process has relied on screening compounds, which interact favorably with the GPCR of interest followed by further chemical engineering as a mean of improving efficacy and selectivity. In this review, methods for sophisticated chemical library screening procedures will be presented. Furthermore, development of cell-based assays for functional coupling of GPCRs to G proteins will be discussed. Finally, the possibility of applying structure-based drug design will be summarized. This includes the application of bioinformatics knowledge and molecular modeling approaches in drug development programs. The major efforts established through large networks of structural genomics on GPCRs, where recombinantly expressed GPCRs are subjected to purification and crystallization attempts with the intention of obtaining high-resolution structures, are presented as a promising future approach for tailor-made drug development.
signal transduction, GPCR expression, drug screening, mammalian cell lines, neurotensin receptor (NTR)