Many examples of specific binding between small molecules are known that are associated with modified physiological and pharmacological activities. Conversely, the antagonism or synergism of small molecules is often correlated with specific binding between the molecules. It follows that small molecule binding can be used as a relatively quick, easy, and specific screen for functionally useful drug actions and interactions. These actions and interactions may manifest themselves as functional antagonisms; binding may correlate with enhancement or synergism; the formation of some complexes may yield clues about how drugs may be targeted to specific cell types in vivo and provide leads for the development of antidotes for drug overdoses or poisoning; the binding of one molecule to another may mimic receptor binding; and complexation may provide novel ways of protecting and delivering drugs. Relevant examples from each type of application are reviewed involving peptide-peptide interactions; peptide-aromatic compound interactions; aromatic-aromatic compound interactions; vitamin-aromatic compound interactions; and polycyclic compound interactions. We argue that screening for molecular complementarity of small molecules turns ligands such as neurotransmitters and their metabolites, hormones, and drugs themselves, into direct targets of drug development that can augment screening new compounds for activity against receptors and second messenger systems. We believe that the small molecule complementarity approach is novel, fruitful and under-utilized.
Keywords: Complexation, pi-pi bonding, charge-transfer complex, binding, antisense peptides, vitamins, catecholamines, indoleamines, drug interactions
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