Reverse pharmacology is a screening technology that matches G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) with unknown cognate ligands in cell-based screening assays by detection of agonist-induced signaling pathways. One decade spent pursuing orphan GPCR screening by this technique assigned over 30 ligand/receptor pairs and revealed previously known or novel undescribed ligands, mostly of a peptidic nature. In this review, we describe the discovery, characterization of the structural composition, biological function, physiological role and therapeutic potential of three recently identified peptidic ligands. These are metastin, QRFP in a context of five RF-amide genes described in humans and the chemoattractant, chemerin. Metastin was initially characterized as a metastasis inhibitor. Investigations using ligand/receptor pairing revealed that metastin was involved in a variety of physiological processes, including endocrine function during pregnancy and gonad development. The novel RF-amide QRFP is implicated in food intake and aldosterone release from the adrenal cortex in the rat. Chemerin, first described as TIG2, is upregulated in tazarotene-treated psoriatic skin. By GPCR screening, bioactive chemerin was isolated from ovarial carcinoma fluid as well as hemofiltrate. Characterization as a chemoattractant for immature dendritic cells and analysis of the expression profile of metastin and its receptor suggested a physiological role of chemerin as a mediator of the immune response, inflammatory processes and bone development.
Keywords: reverse pharmacology, gpcr, orphan receptor, rf-amide, metastin, qrfp, tig, chemerin
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