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Donthamsetti, Prashant; Konrad, David B.; Hetzler, Belinda; Fu, Zhu; Trauner, Dirk and Isacoff, Ehud Y. (2021): Selective Photoswitchable Allosteric Agonist of a G Protein-Coupled Receptor. In: Journal of the American Chemical Society, Vol. 143, No. 24: pp. 8951-8956

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G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the most common targets of drug discovery. However, the similarity between related GPCRs combined with the complex spatiotemporal dynamics of receptor activation in vivo has hindered drug development. Photopharmacology offers the possibility of using light to control the location and timing of drug action by incorporating a photoisomerizable azobenzene into a GPCR ligand, enabling rapid and reversible switching between an inactive and active configuration. Recent advances in this area include (i) photoagonists and photoantagonists that directly control receptor activity but are nonselective because they bind conserved sites, and (ii) photoallosteric modulators that bind selectively to nonconserved sites but indirectly control receptor activity by modulating the response to endogenous ligand. In this study, we designed a photoswitchable allosteric agonist that targets a nonconserved allosteric site for selectivity and activates the receptor on its own to provide direct control. This work culminated in the development of aBINA, a photoswitchable allosteric agonist that selectively activates the G(i/o)-coupled metabotropic glutamate receptor 2 (mGluR2). aBINA is the first example of a new class of precision drugs for GPCRs and other clinically important signaling proteins.

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