The impact of cryo-EM on determining allosteric modulator-bound structures of G protein-coupled receptors

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G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are important therapeutic targets for the treatment of human disease. Although GPCRs are highly successful drug targets, there are many challenges associated with the discovery and translation of small molecule ligands that target the endogenous ligand-binding site for GPCRs. Allosteric modulators are a class of ligands that target alternative binding sites known as allosteric sites and offer fresh opportunities for the development of new therapeutics. However, only a few allosteric modulators have been approved as drugs. Advances in GPCR structural biology enabled by the cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) revolution have provided new insights into the molecular mechanism and binding location of small molecule allosteric modulators. This review highlights the latest findings from allosteric modulator-bound structures of Class A, B, and C GPCRs with a focus on small molecule ligands. Emerging methods that will facilitate cryo-EM structures of more difficult ligand-bound GPCR complexes are also discussed. The results of these studies are anticipated to aid future structure-based drug discovery efforts across many different GPCRs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102560
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Opinion in Structural Biology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Allostery
  • Cryo-EM
  • Drug discovery
  • G protein-coupled receptors

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