Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 5, 821-834 (October 2006) | doi:10.1038/nrd2132

There is a Corrigendum (1 February 2007) associated with this article.

OpinionDrugs, their targets and the nature and number of drug targets

Peter Imming1, Christian Sinning1 & Achim Meyer1  About the authors


What is a drug target? And how many such targets are there? Here, we consider the nature of drug targets, and by classifying known drug substances on the basis of the discussed principles we provide an estimation of the total number of current drug targets.

Estimations of the total number of drug targets are presently dominated by analyses of the human genome, which are limited for various reasons, including the inability to infer the existence of splice variants or interactions between the encoded proteins from gene sequences alone, and the fact that the function of most of the DNA in the genome remains unclear. In 1997, when 100,000 protein-coding sequences were hypothesized to exist in the human genome, Drews and Ryser estimated the number of molecular targets 'hit' by all marketed drug substances to be only 482 (Ref. 1). In 2002, after the sequencing of the human genome, others arrived at approx8,000 targets of pharmacological interest, of which nearly 5,000 could be potentially hit by traditional drug substances, nearly 2,400 by antibodies and approx800 by protein pharmaceuticals2. And on the basis of ligand-binding studies, 399 molecular targets were identified belonging to 130 protein families, and approx3,000 targets for small-molecule drugs were predicted to exist by extrapolations from the number of currently identified such targets in the human genome3.

In summary, current target counts are of the order of 102, whereas estimations of the number of potential drug targets are an order of magnitude higher. In this paper, we consider the nature of drug targets, and use a classification based on this consideration, and a list of approved drug substances (Tables 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, Box 1), to estimate the number of known drug targets, in the following categories:

The nature of drug targets

A prerequisite for counting the number of targets is defining what a target is. Indeed, this is the crucial, most difficult and also most arbitrary part of the present approach. For the purpose of this paper, we consider a target to be a molecular structure (chemically definable by at least a molecular mass) that will undergo a specific interaction with chemicals that we call drugs because they are administered to treat or diagnose a disease. The interaction has a connection with the clinical effect(s).

This definition implies several constraints. First, the medicinal goal excludes pharmacological and biochemical tools from the present approach. Second, a major constraint is a lack of technique. Life, including disease, is dynamic, but as we do not yet directly observe the interactions of drugs and targets, and only partly notice the subsequent biochemical 'ripples' they produce; we are generally limited to 'still life' (for example, X-ray crystal structures) and to treating targets as static objects. In the case of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), the pharmaceutically most useful class of receptors, a re-organization of the protein after drug binding was derived from biochemical data4, but such approaches are still in their infancy.

For most drugs, several if not many targets were identified. Consequently, we had to decide for every drug substance or drug class which target(s) to include in our list. For this, we relied on the existence of literature data that showed some connection between the interaction of the drug with the biochemical structure of the target and the clinical effect(s) (not side effects). A chemical with a certain reactivity or binding property is used as a drug because of its clinical effects, but it should be stressed that it can be challenging to prove that a certain molecular interaction is indeed the one triggering the effect(s). In this respect, knockout mice are proving increasingly useful. For example, a lack of effect of a drug in mice lacking a particular target can provide strong support that the effects of the drug are mediated by that target (for a review on knockout mice in target validation, see Ref. 5).

We therefore considered the construction of knockout animals that lack the target, with pertinent observation of effects, strong proof or disproof for a certain mechanism of action. In the case of receptors, we regarded the availability and testing of both agonists and antagonists (and/or inverse agonists) proof for a mechanism. In the case of enzyme inhibitors (for example, cyclooxygenase inhibitors), molecular interactions and effects of structurally unrelated substances that are largely identical were considered proof of the mechanism. In cases where a drug inter-action on the biochemical level was found, but the biochemical pathway was not yet known to be connected with the observed drug effect, the target was not counted. For antipsychotic drugs in particular, a plethora of target receptors and receptor subtypes are known and discussed (see PDSP Ki Database in Further information and Box 2). However, extensive discussion of such issues is outside the scope of an article that tries to cover 'all' drug substances. For the present purpose, we chose to limit our analysis to published consensus data on one to three of the main biochemical targets of drug substances. If there was no consensus or proof of target and/or target–effect connection, we included the respective substances in a part of our list called 'Unknown mechanism of action'.

The dynamics of drug effects. It would ultimately be desirable to move away from a static target definition, but this is hindered mainly by our inability to gauge the inter-action of the aforementioned 'ripples' — in other words, the actual pharmacodynamics of drugs. All drugs somehow interfere with signal transduction, receptor signalling and biochemical equilibria. For many drugs we know, and for most we suspect, that they interact with more than one target. So, there will be simultaneous changes in several biochemical signals, and there will be feedback reactions of the pathways disturbed. In most cases, the net result will not be linearly deducible from single effects. For drug combinations, this is even more complicated. A mechanism-based simulation of pharmacodynamic drug–drug interactions was published recently6, highlighting the complexity of interaction analyses for biological systems. Awareness is also increasing of the nonlinear correlation of molecular interactions and clinical effects. For example, the importance of receptor–receptor interactions (receptor mosaics) was recently summarized for GPCRs, resulting in the hypothesis that cooperativity is important for the decoding of signals, including drug signals7. Another paper reported dopamine fluctuations after administration of cocaine, followed by a gradual increase in steady-state dopamine concentration8. Indeed, the dynamics of the response are what really matters, but are difficult to assess experimentally. Further examples of dynamic (process) mechanisms of drug action include non-covalent modifications of the active centre (for example, acetylation of bacterial transpeptidases by beta-lactam antibiotics); allosteric modulation (for example, benzodiazepine modulation of GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) receptors); drugs that require the receptor to be in a certain state for binding and inhibition (for example, 'trapping' of K+ channels by methanesulphoanilide anti-arrhythmic agents9); drugs that exert their effect indirectly and require a functional background (for example, the catechol-O-methyl transferase inhibitor entacapone, the effect of which is due to the accumulation of non-metabolized dopamine); anti-infectives that require the target organism to be in an active, growing state (for example beta-lactams); molecules requiring activation (prodrugs, such as paracetamol); and cases of modifications of a substrate or cofactor (for example, asparaginase, which depletes tumour cells of asparagine; isoniazide, which is activated by mycobacteria leading to an inactive covalently modified NADH; and vancomycin, which binds to the building block bacteria use for constructing their cell wall).

The macro- and micro-world of targets. So, for estimations of the total number of targets, a clinically relevant 'target' might consist not of a single biochemical entity, but the simultaneous interference of a number of receptors (pathways, enzymes and so on). Only this will give a net clinical effect that might be considered beneficial. As yet, we are unable to count 'targets' in this sense ('macro-targets'), and it is only by chance that most of the current in vitro screening techniques will identify drugs that work through such targets.

Greater knowledge of how drugs interact with the body (mechanisms of action, drug–target interactions) has led to a reduction of established drug doses and inspired the development of newer, highly specific drug substances with a known mechanism of action. However, a preoccupation with the molecular details has sometimes resulted in a tendency to focus only on this one aspect of the drug effects. For example, cumulative evidence now suggests that the proven influence of certain psychopharmaceuticals on neuro-transmitter metabolism has little to do with the treatment of schizophrenia or the effectiveness of the drug for this indication10. Here, we touch on a very basic and important point that cannot be expanded in the context of this paper but which deserves to be stressed: with all our efforts to understand the molecular basis of drug action, we must not fall into the trap of reductionism. As Roald Hoffmann aptly said in his speech at the Nobel Banquet:

"Chemistry reduced to its simplest terms, is not physics. Medicine is not chemistry .... knowledge of the specific physiological and eventually molecular sequence of events does not help us understand what [a] poet has to say to us."

With diseases such as type 1 diabetes, for example, the molecule insulin is indeed all that is needed to produce a cure, although we cannot imitate its regulated secretion. With diseases such as psychoses, for example, antipsychotic drugs might not correct nor even interfere with the aspect of the human constitution that is actually deranged, and with such drugs molecular determinism might be counterproductive to the use and development of therapeutic approaches. It is thought that rather than chemically providing a 'cure', these drugs make the patient more responsive to a therapy that acts at a different level. Reflections on molecular targets are very important because drugs are molecules, but it is important not to be too simplistic.

Returning to the key question, what do we count as a target? In the search for molecular reaction partners of drug substances, we will have to be content with losing sight of some of the net biochemical and especially clinical effects of the drug's action. A target definition derived from the net effect rather than the direct chemical interaction will require input from systems biology, a nascent research field that promises to significantly affect the drug discovery process11. At the other end of the scale of precision, we can define some targets very precisely on the molecular level: for example, we can say that dihydropyridines block the CaV1.2a splicing variant in heart muscle cells of L-type high-voltage activated calcium channels. This is an example of a 'micro-target'. It does make sense to define it because a subtype or even splicing variant selectivity could alter the effectiveness of calcium channel blockers. We could further differentiate between genetic, transcriptional, post-transcriptional or age differences between individuals, and again this will make sense in some cases. But for a target count, a line needs to be drawn somewhere, otherwise the number of individual patients that receive a drug could be counted and equated with the number of known targets. In summary, we will count neither macro- nor micro-targets, but something in between — admittedly a somewhat arbitrary distinction.

Classification of current drugs

There are a number of possible ways to classify drug substances (active pharmaceutical ingredients). From the end of the nine-teenth century until the 1970s, drug substances were classified in the same way as other chemical entities: by the nature of their primary elements, functional moieties or organic substance class. Recently, the idea of classifying drug substances strictly according to their chemical constitution or structure has been revived. Numerous databases now attempt to gather and organize information on existing or potential drug substances according to their chemical structure and diversity. The objective is to create substance 'libraries' that contain pertinent information about possible ligands for new targets (for example, an enzyme or receptor) of clinical interest12, 13 and, more importantly, to understand the systematics of molecular recognition14, 15 (ligand–receptor).

In situations in which the dynamic actions of the drug substance stimulate, or inhibit, a biological process, it is necessary to move away from the descriptions of single proteins, receptors and so on and to view the entire signal chain as the target.

At present, the most commonly used classification system for drug substances is the ATC system16 (see WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology, Further information). It categorizes drug substances at different levels: anatomy, therapeutic properties and chemical properties. We recently proposed an alternative classification system17, although we did not follow it fully in the arrangement of entries in Tables 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, Box 1, as explained below.

Classification of drug substances according to targets. In Tables 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, we arranged drug substances according to their mechanism of action. Although the term 'mechanism of action' itself implies a classification according to the dynamics of drug substance effects at the molecular level, the dynamics of these interactions are only speculative models at present, and so mechanism of action can currently only be used to describe static (micro)targets, as discussed above.

The actual depth of detail used to define the target is primarily dependent on the amount of knowledge available about the target and its interactions with a drug. If the target structure has already been determined, it could still be that the molecular effect of the drug cannot be fully described by the interactions with one target protein alone. For example, antibacterial oxazolidinones interact with 23S-rRNA, tRNA and two polypeptides, ultimately leading to inhibition of protein synthesis. In this case, a description of the mechanism of action that only includes interactions with the 23S-rRNA target would be too narrowly defined. In particular, in situations in which the dynamic actions of the drug substance stimulate, or inhibit, a biological process, it is necessary to move away from the descriptions of single proteins, receptors and so on and to view the entire signal chain as the target. Indeed, it has been pointed out by Swinney in an article on this topic that "two components are important to the mechanism of action... The first component is the initial mass-action-dependent interaction... The second component requires a coupled biochemical event to create a transition away from mass-action equilibrium" and "drug mechanisms that create transitions to a non-equilibrium state will be more efficient"18. This consideration again stresses that dynamics are essential for effective drug action and, as discussed above, indicates that an effective drug target comprises a biochemical system rather than a single molecule.

A further criterion needed for the full categorization of drug substances according to their target is the anatomical localization of the target. This is essential for a differentiation between substances with the same biochemical target, but a different organ specificity (for example, nifedipine and verapamil are both L-type calcium channel inhibitors; the former interacts primarily with vascular calcium channels and the latter with cardiac calcium channels). However, in the tables, we chose not to include this criterion as it would have made the list more cumbersome.

Categorization of current drugs. We began by sorting substances according to their target, considering the following biochemical structures to be target families: enzymes (Table 1); substrates, metabolites and proteins (Table 2); receptors (Table 3); ion channels (Table 4); transport proteins (Table 5); DNA/RNA and the ribosome (Table 6); targets of monoclonal antibodies (Table 7); various physicochemical mechanisms (Table 8); and unknown mechanism of action (Box 1).

Within the families, individual enzymes, receptors and so on were included if they were identified in the literature as the main target(s) of an approved drug substance. We filled the list shown in Tables 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, Box 1 by including the following drugs and their corresponding main targets: all substances included in the thirteenth Model List of Essential Medicines published by the World Health Organization19 (excluding the categories: vitamins, minerals, oxygen as a narcotic gas, and diagnostics); drug substances included in the FDA's Approved Drug Products list (25th edition, 2005)20; all newly developed drugs from the past 5 years introduced on the German market21; and drugs approved by the FDA in 2004 with a new mechanism of action, again excluding substitution therapeuticals22. We checked the resulting list against the lists of targets in Drews and Ryser's paper1, a list of enzyme targets in the supplemental material to Robertson's paper23, and a compilation of receptors produced for nomenclature purposes24, and we further supplemented our list using the current edition of Mutschler's German textbook Drug Actions25.

In this way, Tables 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, Box 1 include only those targets relevant for the effect of drugs currently on the market. For drug substances or classes in the lists, selected references are given that are concerned with the mechanism of action; the references are arranged by target family and subfamily, and within the subfamilies, alphabetically. New targets and mechanisms of action were not listed if a corresponding drug that interacts with the target has not yet been marketed. Drugs currently undergoing clinical trials have been excluded for the sake of briefness and also because of the numerous status fluctuations of such drugs.

It should be noted that for a certain target, we did not include all drug substances that address it, but just a representative example of the structural classes in use. In some cases, such as the beta-lactams, we cited the structural class instead of individual representatives. We tried to name the first substance of a class, if it is still marketed.

A subdivision of the major groups according to the 'anatomy' (cell type or physiological functional unit within which the target is located and acted on by the drug) and the substance class has been carried out in just a few cases for which the literature seemed to be unanimous about the identification and relevance of such a subdivision. In order to keep Tables 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, Box 1 readable, the main focus has been given to the classification of the substance according to its biochemical target.

A categorization going into further detail is outside the scope of this article, although of course obtaining further molecular and cellular detail is possible in some cases. For example, transport proteins have been subclassified in great detail26, 27, and target lists have been produced for cancer drugs28. An extensive list of affinities of CNS drugs for vast numbers of targets is also available online at the PDSP Database (see Further information). The latter list illustrates well the point discussed previously: that in many cases it will not help to know a single target, because the clinical effect is caused by patterns of target interactions.

Of course, our list is an approximation. And a categorization of compounds according to their mechanism of action will inevitably lead to a group of remaining drugs with proven clinical effectiveness, but an unknown molecular target. Such compounds can, if at all, only hypothetically be classified within the selected major groups. The ATC classification system, with its systematic categorization according to therapeutic aspects (for example, 'analgesics') does not have this problem, as every substance in the list shows — or is claimed to show — a therapeutic effect. It will also be the case that, as with the ATC system, certain drug substances appear more than once in the list. Indeed, it will happen more often than in the ATC system, owing to the fact that some drug effects are based on the synergistic effects of more than one mechanism of action.

The number of drug targets

At the level of target definition we chose, which is illustrated by the table rows, we counted 218 targets. The most prominent target families included hydrolases in the enzyme family, GPCRs in the receptor family and voltage-gated Ca2+ channels in the ion-channel family. The usefulness of a target family in this count is probably a consequence of its commonness, the format of assays (with recent binding-affinity based assays having contributed little as yet), and the nature of the diseases that affect the developed world.

A large part of this paper is concerned with the nature of drug targets and the need to consider the dynamics of the drug–targets (plural intended) interactions, as these considerations were used to define what we would eventually count. Many successful drugs have emerged from the simplistic 'one drug, one target, one disease' approach that continues to dominate pharmaceutical thinking, and we have generally used this approach when counting targets here. However, there is an increasing readiness to challenge this paradigm29, 30, 31, 32. We have discussed its constraints and limitations in light of the emerging network view of targets. The recent progress made in our understanding of biochemical pathways and their interaction with drugs is impressive. However, it may be that 'the more you know, the harder it gets'. It is not the final number of targets we counted that is the most important aspect of this Perspective; rather, we stress how considerations about what to count can help us gauge the scope and limitations of our understanding of the molecular reaction partners of active pharmaceutical ingredients. Targets are highly sophisticated, delicate regulatory pathways and feedback loops but, at present, we are still mainly designing drugs that can single out and, as we tellingly say, 'hit' certain biochemical units — the simple definable, identifiable targets as described here. This is not as much as we might have hoped for, but in keeping with the saying of one of the earliest medical practitioners, Hippocrates: "Life is short, and art long; the crisis fleeting; experience perilous, and decision difficult." Humility remains important in medical and pharmaceutical sciences and practice.



We thank the following colleagues for help with compiling the first draft: T. Bubeta, L. Ann Bailey, H. Morck, M. Ramadan and T. Rogosch (Fachbereich Pharmazie, Universität Marburg, Germany), and C. Oehler and R. Schneider (Institut für Pharmazie, Universität Halle, Germany).

Competing interests statement

The authors declare no competing financial interests.



  1. Drews, J. & Ryser, S. The role of innovation in drug development. Nature Biotechnol. 15, 1318–1319 (1997).

  2. Burgess, J. & Golden, J. Cracking the druggable genome. Bio-IT World, [online] (2002).

  3. Hopkins, A. & Groom, C. The druggable genome. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 1, 727–730 (2002).

  4. Saunders, J. G-protein-coupled receptors in drug discovery. Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett. 15, 3653 (2005)

  5. Zambrowicz, B. P. & Sands. A. T. Knockouts model the 100 best-selling drugs — will they model the next 100? Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 2, 38–51 (2003).

  6. Jonker, D. M., Visser, S. A. G., van der Graaf, P. H., Voskuyl, R. A. & Danhof, M. Towards a mechanism-based analysis of pharmacodynamic drug–drug interactions in vivo. Pharmacol. Therapeut. 106, 1–18 (2005).

  7. Agnati, L. F., Fuxe, K. & Ferré, S. How receptor mosaics decode transmitter signals. Possible relevance of cooperativity. Trends Biochem. Sci. 30, 188–193 (2005).

  8. Heien, M. L. A. V. et al. Real-time measurement of dopamine fluctuations after cocaine in the brain of behaving rats. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 102, 10023–10028 (2005).

  9. Mitcheson, J. S., Chen, J. & Sanguinetti, M. C. Trapping of a methanesulfonanilide by closure of the HERG potassium channel activation gate. J. Gen. Physiol. 115, 229–240 (2000).

  10. Hyman, S. E. & Fenton, W. S. What are the right targets for psychopharmacology? Science 299, 350–351 (2003).

  11. Apic, G., Ignjatovic, T., Boyer, S. & Russell, R. B. Illuminating drug discovery with biological pathways. FEBS Lett. 579, 1872–1877 (2005).

  12. Schneider, G. Trends in virtual combinatorial library design. Curr. Med. Chem. 9, 2095–2101 (2002).

  13. Goodnow, R. A. Jr., Guba, W. & Haap, W. Library design practices for success in lead generation with small molecule libraries. Comb. Chem. High Throughput Screen. 6, 649–660 (2003).

  14. Hendlich, M., Bergner, A., Gunther, J. & Klebe, G. Relibase: design and development of a database for comprehensive analysis of protein-ligand interactions. J. Mol. Biol. 326 , 607–620 (2003).

  15. Gohlke, H. & Klebe, G. Approaches to the description and prediction of the binding affinity of small-molecule ligands to macromolecular receptors. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 41, 2644–2676 (2002).

  16. Schwabe, U. ATC-Code (Wissenschaftliches Institut der AOK, Bonn, Germany, 1995).

  17. Imming, P. et al. A classification of drug substances according to their mechanism of action. Pharmazie 59, 579–589 (2004).

  18. Swinney, D. C. Biochemical mechanisms of drug action: what does it take for success? Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 3, 801–808 (2004).

  19. World Health Organization. The Essential Medicines List, [online] (2002).

  20. Approved Drug Products 25th edition and Cumulative Supplement (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2005).

  21. Pharmazeutische Zeitung Neue Arzneistoffe, [online], (2005).

  22. CDER Drug and Biologic Approval Reports [online], (2006).

  23. Robertson, J. G. Mechanistic basis of enzyme-targeted drugs. Biochemistry 44, 5561–5571 (2005).

  24. Alexander, S. P. H, Mathie, A. & Peters, J. A. TiPS nomenclature supplement. Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 12, 1–146 (2001).

  25. Mutschler, E., Geisslinger, G., Kroemer, H. K., Schäfer-Korting, M. Mutschler Arzneimittelwirkungen (Wissenschaftliche, Stuttgart, 2001).

  26. Goldberg, N. R. et al. A. Probing conformational changes in neurotransmitter transporters: a structural context. Eur. J. Pharmacol. 479, 3–12 (2003).

  27. Saier Jr., M. H. A functional-phylogenetic system for the classification of transport proteins. J. Cell Biochem. Suppl. 32–33, 84–94 (1999).

  28. Krishnan, K., Campbell, S., Abdel-Rahman, F., Whaley, S. & Stone, W. L. Cancer chemoprevention drug targets. Curr. Drug Targets 4, 45–54 (2003).

  29. Morphy, R. & Rankovic, Z. Designed multiple ligands: an emerging drug discovery paradigm. J. Med. Chem. 48, 6523–6543 (2005).

  30. Roth, B. L., Sheffler, D. J. & Kroeze, W. K. Magic shotguns versus magic bullets: selectively non-selective drugs for mood disorders and schizophrenia. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 3, 353–359 (2004).

  31. Law, M. R., Wald, J., Morris, J. K. & Jordan, R. E. Value of low dose combination treatment with blood pressure lowering drugs: analysis of 354 randomised trials. Br. Med. J. 326, 1427–1431 (2003).

  32. Keith, C. T., Borisy, A. A. & Stockwell, B. R. Multicomponent therapeutics for networked systems. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 4, 1–7 (2005).

  33. Roden, D. M. Antiarrhythmic drugs: past, present, and future. J. Cardiovasc. Electrophysiol. 14, 1389–1396 (2003).

  34. Grosser, T., Fries, S. & FitzGerald, G. A. Biological basis for the cardiovascular consequences of COX-2 inhibition: therapeutic challenges and opportunities. J. Clin. Invest. 116, 4–15 (2006).

  35. Sozzani, S. et al. Propranolol, a phosphatidate phosphohydrolase inhibitor, also inhibits protein kinase C. J. Biol. Chem. 267, 20481–20488 (1992).

  36. Revankar, C. M., Cimino, D. F., Sklar, L. A., Arterburn, J. B. & Prossnitz, E. R. A transmembrane intracellular estrogen receptor mediates rapid cell signaling. Science 307, 1625–1630 (2005).

  37. Chulia, S. et al. Relationships between structure and vascular activity in a series of benzylisoquinolines. Br. J. Pharmacol. 122, 409–416 (1997).

  38. Frantz, S. Playing dirty. Nature 437, 942–943 (2005).

  39. Petersen, E. N. The pharmacology and toxicology of disulfiram and its metabolites. Acta Psychiatr. Scand. Suppl. 369, 7–13 (1992).

  40. Baker, G. B., Coutts, R. T., McKenna, K. F. & Sherry-McKenna, R. L. Insights into the mechanisms of action of the MAO inhibitors phenelzine and tranylcypromine: a review. J. Psychiatry Neurosci. 17, 206–214 (1992).

  41. Haefely, W. et al. Pharmacology of moclobemide. Clin. Neuropharmacol. 16 (Suppl 2), 8–18 (1993).

  42. Garavito, R. M., Malkowski, M. G. & DeWitt, D. L. The structures of prostaglandin endoperoxide H synthases-1 and -2. Prostaglandins Other Lipid Mediat. 68–69, 129–152 (2002).

  43. Smith, W. L. & Song, I. The enzymology of prostaglandin endoperoxide H synthases-1 and-2. Prostaglandins Other Lipid Mediat. 68–69, 115–28 (2002).

  44. Hogestatt, E. D. et al. Conversion of acetaminophen to the bioactive N-acyl phenolamine AM404 via fatty acid amide hydrolase-dependent arachidonic acid conjugation in the nervous system. J. Biol. Chem. 280, 31405–31412 (2005).

  45. Mann, K. G. The challenge of regulating anticoagulant drugs: Focus on warfarin. Am. Heart J. 149 (Suppl 1), 36–42 (2005).

  46. Miller, R. W. Aromatase inhibitors: mechanism of action and role in the treatment of breast cancer. Semin. Oncol. 30 (4 Suppl 14), 3–11 (2003).

  47. Maertens, J. A. History of the development of azole derivatives. Clin. Microbiol. Infect. 10 (Suppl 1), 1–10 (2004).

  48. Klotz, U. The role of aminosalicylates at the beginning of the new millennium in the treatment of chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Eur. J. Clin. Pharmacol. 56, 353–362 (2000).

  49. Parnes, S. M. The role of leukotriene inhibitors in patients with paranasal sinus disease. Curr. Opin. Otolaryngol. Head Neck. Surg. 11, 184–191 (2003).

  50. Cooper, D. S. Antithyroid drugs. N. Engl. J. Med. 352, 905–917 (2005).

  51. Allison, A. C. & Eugui, E. M. Mycophenolate mofetil and its mechanisms of action. Immunopharmacology 47, 85–118 (2000).

  52. Stancu, C. & Sima, A. Statins: mechanism of action and effects. J. Cell. Mol. Med. 5, 378–387 (2001).

  53. Bull, H. G. et al. Mechanism-based inhibition of human steroid 5a-reductase by finasteride: enzyme-catalyzed formation of NADP-Dihydrofinasteride, a potent bisubstrate analog inhibitor. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 118, 2359–2365 (1996).

  54. Matthews, D. A. et al. Refined crystal structures of Escherichia coli and chicken liver dihydrofolate reductase containing bound trimethoprim. J. Biol. Chem. 260, 381–391 (1985).

  55. Goldman, I. D. & Zhao, R. Molecular, biochemical, and cellular pharmacology of pemetrexed. Semin. Oncol. 29 (6 Suppl 18), 3–17 (2002).

  56. Anderson, A. C. Targeting DHFR in parasitic protozoa. Drug Discov. Today 10, 121–128 (2005).

  57. Fox, R. I. Mechanism of action of leflunomide in rheumatoid arthritis. J. Rheumatol. Suppl. 53, 20–26 (1998).

  58. Heath, R. J., White, S. W. & Rock, C. O. Inhibitors of fatty acid synthesis as antimicrobial chemotherapeutics. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 58, 695–703 (2002).

  59. Ryder, N. S. The mechanism of action of terbinafine. Clin. Exp. Dermatol. 14, 98–100 (1989).

  60. Barrett-Bee, K. & Dixon, G. Ergosterol biosynthesis inhibition: a target for antifungal agents. Acta Biochim. Pol. 42, 465–479 (1995).

  61. Borges, F., Fernandes, E. & Roleira, F. Progress towards the discovery of xanthine oxidase inhibitors. Curr. Med. Chem. 9, 195–217 (2002).

  62. Brownlee, J. M., Johnson-Winters, K., Harrison, D. H. & Moran, G. R. Structure of the ferrous form of (4-hydroxyphenyl)pyruvate dioxygenase from Streptomyces avermitilis in complex with the therapeutic herbicide, NTBC. Biochemistry 43, 6370–6377 (2004).

  63. Yarbro, J. W. Mechanism of action of hydroxyurea. Semin. Oncol. 19 (Suppl 9), 1–10 (1992).

  64. Hofmann, J. Modulation of protein kinase C in antitumor treatment. Rev. Physiol. Biochem. Pharmacol. 142, 1–96 (2001).

  65. Jendrossek, V. & Handrick, R. Membrane targeted anticancer drugs: potent inducers of apoptosis and putative radiosensitisers. Curr. Med. Chem. Anti-Canc. Agents 3, 343–353 (2003).

  66. Atkins, M., Jones, C. A. & Kirkpatrick, P. Sunitinib maleate. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 5, 279–280 (2006).

  67. Schlünzen, F. et al. Structural basis for the interaction of antibiotics with the peptidyl transferase centre in eubacteria. Nature 413, 814–821 (2001).

  68. Mannisto, P. T. et al. Characteristics of catechol O-methyl-transferase (COMT) and properties of selective COMT inhibitors. Prog. Drug Res. 39, 291–350 (1992).

  69. Komo, K., Oizumi, K. & Oka, S. Mode of action of rifampin on mycobacteria. Am. Rev. Respir. Dis. 107, 1006–1012 (1973).

  70. Painter, G. R., Almond, M. R., Mao, S. & Liotta, D. C. Biochemical and mechanistic basis for the activity of nucleoside analogue inhibitors of HIV reverse transcriptase. Curr. Top. Med. Chem. 4, 1035–1044 (2004).

  71. Zapor, M. J., Cozza, K. L., Wynn, G. H., Wortmann, G. W. & Armstrong, S. C. Antiretrovirals, Part II: focus on non-protease inhibitor antiretrovirals (NRTIs, NNRTIs, and fusion inhibitors). Psychosomatics 45, 524–535 (2004).

  72. Bell, C., Matthews, G. V. & Nelson, M. R. Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors — an overview. Int. J. STD AIDS 14, 71–77 (2003).

  73. Young, S. D. et al. L-743,726 (DMP-266): a novel, highly potent nonnucleoside inhibitor of the human immunodeficiency virus type 1 reverse transcriptase. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 39, 2602–2605 (1995).

  74. Earnshaw, D. L., Bacon, T. H., Darlison, S. J., Edmonds, K., Perkins, R. M. & Vere Hodge, R. A. Mode of antiviral action of penciclovir in MRC-5 cells infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), HSV-2, and varicella-zoster virus. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 36, 2747–2757 (1992).

  75. Walther, M. M., Trahan, E. E., Cooper, M., Venzon, D. & Linehan, W. M. Suramin inhibits proliferation and DNA synthesis in transitional carcinoma cell lines. J. Urol. 152, 1599–1602 (1994).

  76. Gurvich, N., Tsygankova, O. M., Meinkoth, J. L. & Klein, P. S. Histone deacetylase is a target of valproic acid-mediated cellular differentiation. Cancer Res. 64, 1079–1086 (2004).

  77. Angehagen, M., Ben-Menachem, E., Ronnback, L. & Hansson, E. Novel mechanisms of action of three antiepileptic drugs, vigabatrin, tiagabine, and topiramate. Neurochem. Res. 28, 333–340 (2003).

  78. Buchdunger, E. et al. ABL protein-tyrosine kinase inhibitor STI571 Inhibits in vitro signal transduction mediated by c-Kit and platelet-derived growth factor receptors. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 295, 139–145 (2000).

  79. Minna, J. D. & Dowell, J. Erlotinib hydrochloride. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 4, S14–S15 (2005).

  80. Yoon, H. J. et al. Crystallization and preliminary X-ray crystallographic analysis of UDP-N-acetylglucosamine enolpyruvyl transferase from Haemophilus influenzae in complex with UDP-N-acetylglucosamine and fosfomycin. Mol. Cell 19, 398–401 (2005).

  81. El Zoeiby, A., Sanschagrin, F. & Levesque, R. C. Structure and function of the Mur enzymes: development of novel inhibitors. Mol. Microbiol. 47, 1–12 (2003).

  82. Goto, M. et al. M. Structural determinants for branched-chain aminotransferase isozyme specific inhibition by the anticonvulsant drug gabapentin. J. Biol. Chem. 280, 37246–37256 (2005).

  83. Adams, J. The proteasome: a suitable antineoplastic target. Nature Rev. Cancer 4, 349–360 (2004).

  84. Sugimoto, H., Ogura, H., Arai, Y., Limura, Y. & Yamanishi, Y. Research and development of donepezil hydrochloride, a new type of acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Jpn. J. Pharmacol. 89, 7–20 (2002).

  85. Kwong, T. C. Organophosphate pesticides: biochemistry and clinical toxicology. Ther. Drug Monit. 24, 144–149 (2002).

  86. Fisone, G., Borgkvist, A. & Usiello, A. Caffeine as a psychomotor stimulant: mechanism of action. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 61, 857–872 (2004).

  87. Honerjager, P. & Nawrath, H. Pharmacology of bipyridine phosphodiesterase III inhibitors. Eur. J. Anaesthesiol. Suppl. 5, 7–14 (1992).

  88. Kaneda, T., Takeuchi, Y., Matsui, H., Shimizu, K., Urakawa, N. & Nakajyo, S. Inhibitory mechanism of papaverine on carbachol-induced contraction in bovine trachea. J. Pharmacol. Sci. 98, 275–282 (2005).

  89. Corbin, J. D. & Francis, S. H. Molecular biology and pharmacology of PDE-5-inhibitor therapy for erectile dysfunction. J. Androl. 24 (Suppl 6), 38–41 (2003).

  90. Beutler, A. S., Li, S., Nicol, R. & Walsh, M. J. Carbamazepine is an inhibitor of histone deacetylases. Life Sci. 76, 3107–3115 (2005).

  91. Calfee, D. P. & Hayden, F. G. New approaches to influenza chemotherapy: neuraminidase inhibitors. Drugs 56, 537–553 (1998).

  92. Krasikov, V. V., Karelov, D. V. & Firsov, L. M. alpha-Glucosidases. Biochemistry (Mosc). 66, 267–281 (2001).

  93. Guerciolini, R. Mode of action of orlistat. Int. J. Obes. Relat. Metab. Disord. 21 (Suppl 3), 12–23 (1997).

  94. Wynn, G. H., Zapor, M. J., Smith, B. H., Wortmann, G., Oesterheld, J. R., Armstrong, S. C. & Cozza, K. L. Antiretrovirals, part 1: overview, history, and focus on protease inhibitors. Psychosomatics 45, 262–270 (2004).

  95. Wegner, J. Biochemistry of serine protease inhibitors and their mechanisms of action: a review. J. Extra. Corpor. Technol. 35, 326–338 (2003).

  96. Konaklieva, M. I. beta-lactams as inhibitors of serine enzymes. Curr. Med. Chem. Anti-Infect. Agents 1, 215–238 (2002).

  97. Nicolau, K. C., Boddy, C. N. C., Brase, S. & Winssinger, N. Chemistry, biology, and medicine of the glycopeptide antibiotics. Angew. Chem., Int. Ed. Engl. 38, 2096–2152 (1999).

  98. Matagne, A., Dubus, A., Galleni, M. & Frere, J. M. The beta-lactamase cycle. Nat. Prod. Rep. 16, 1–19 (1999).

  99. Hirsh, J., Raschke, R., Warkentin, T. E., Dalen, J. E., Deykin, D. & Poller, L. Heparin: mechanism of action, pharmacokinetics, dosing considerations, monitoring, efficacy and safety. Chest 108 (Suppl. 4), 258–275 (1995).

  100. Nader, H. B., Lopes, C. C., Rocha, H. A., Santos, E. A. & Dietrich, C. P. Heparins and heparinoids: occurrence, structure and mechanism of antithrombotic and hemorrhagic activities. Curr. Pharm. Des. 10, 951–966 (2004).

  101. Wolvekamp, M. C. & de Bruin, R. W. Diamine oxidase: an overview of historical, biochemical and functional aspects. Dig. Dis. 12, 2–14 (1994).

  102. Weitz, J. I., Stewart, R. J. & Fredenburgh, J. C. Mechanism of action of plasminogen activators. Thromb. Haemost. 82, 974–982 (1999).

  103. Bajaj, A. P. & Castellino, F. J. Activation of human plasminogen by equimolar levels of streptokinase. J. Biol. Chem. 252, 492–498 (1977).

  104. Spronk, H. M., Govers-Riemslag, J. W. & ten Cate, H. The blood coagulation system as a molecular machine. Bioessays 25, 1220–1228 (2003).

  105. Bauer, K. A. Fondaparinux sodium: a selective inhibitor of factor Xa. Am. J. Health Syst. Pharm. 58 (Suppl 2), 14–17 (2001).

  106. Nemec, K. & Schubert-Zsilavecz, M. From teprotide to captopril. Rational design of ACE inhibitors. Pharm. Unserer Zeit 32, 11–16 (2003).

  107. Pastel, D. A. Imipenem-cilastatin sodium, a broad-spectrum carbapenem antibiotic combination. Clin. Pharm. 5, 719–736 (1986).

  108. Bondeson, J. The mechanisms of action of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs: a review with emphasis on macrophage signal transduction and the induction of proinflammatory cytokines. Gen. Pharmacol. 29, 127–150 (1997).

  109. Adnane, L., Trail, P. A., Taylor, I., Wilhelm, S. M. Sorafenib (BAY 43–9006, Nexavar), a dual-action inhibitor that targets RAF/MEK/ERK pathway in tumor cells and tyrosine kinases VEGFR/PDGFR in tumor vasculature. Methods Enzymol. 407, 597–612 (2005).

  110. De la Baume, S., Brion, F., Dam-Trung-Tuong, M. & Schwartz, J. C. Evaluation of enkephalinase inhibition in the living mouse, using [3H]acetorphan as a probe. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 247, 653–660 (1988).

  111. Reynolds, N. J. & Al-Daraji, W. I. Calcineurin inhibitors and sirolimus: mechanisms of action and applications in dermatology. Clin. Exp. Dermatol. 27, 555–561 (2002).

  112. Patel, S., Martinez-Ripoll, M., Blundell, T. L. & Albert, A. Structural enzymology of Li+-sensitive/Mg2+-dependent phosphatases. J. Mol. Biol. 320, 1087–1094 (2002).

  113. Spiegelberg, B. D, Dela Cruz, J., Law, T. H & York, J. D. Alteration of lithium pharmacology through manipulation of phosphoadenosine phosphate metabolism. J. Biol. Chem. 280, 5400–5405 (2005).

  114. Tiede, I. et al. CD28-dependent Rac1 activation is the molecular target of azathioprine in primary human CD4+ T lymphocytes. J. Clin. Invest. 111, 1133–1145 (2003).

  115. El Ghachi, M., Bouhss, A., Blanot, D. & Mengin-Lecreulx, D. The bacA gene of Escherichia coli encodes an undecaprenyl pyrophosphate phosphatase activity. J. Biol. Chem. 279, 30106–30113 (2004).

  116. Bartholini, G. & Pletscher, A. Decarboxylase inhibitors. Pharmacol. Ther. [B]. 1, 407–421 (1975).

  117. Supuran, C. T., Scozzafava, A. & Casini, A. Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. Med. Res. Rev. 23, 146–189 (2003).

  118. Sonneville, A. Hypostamine (tritoqualine), a synthetic reference antihistaminic. Allerg. Immunol. (Paris) 20, 365–368 (1988).

  119. Huang, Y., Pledgie, A., Casero, R. A. Jr. & Davidson, NE. Molecular mechanisms of polyamine analogs in cancer cells. Anticancer Drugs 16, 229–241 (2005).

  120. Chen, Z. et al. An essential role for mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase in nitroglycerin bioactivation. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 102, 12159–12164 (2005).

  121. Thatcher, G. R., Nicolescu, A. C., Bennett, B. M. & Toader, V. Nitrates and NO release: contemporary aspects in biological and medicinal chemistry. Free Rad. Biol. Medic. 37, 1122–1143 (2004).

  122. Ignarro, L. J. After 130 years, the molecular mechanism of action of nitroglycerin is revealed. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 99, 7816–7817 (2002).

  123. Kukovetz, W. R. & Holzmann, S. Cyclic GMP as the mediator of molsidomine-induced vasodilatation. Eur. J. Pharmacol. 122, 103–109 (1986).

  124. Fenn, T. D., Stamper, G. F., Morollo, A. A. & Ringe, D. A side reaction of alanine racemase: transamination of cycloserine. Biochemistry 42, 5775–5783 (2003).

  125. Drlica, K. & Malik, M. Fluoroquinolones: action and resistance. Curr. Top. Med. Chem. 3, 249–282 (2003).

  126. Pizzolato, J. F. & Saltz, L. B. The camptothecins. Lancet 361, 2235–2242 (2003).

  127. Meresse, P., Dechaux, E., Monneret, C. & Bertounesque, E. Etoposide: discovery and medicinal chemistry. Curr. Med. Chem. 11, 2443–2466 (2004).

  128. Polak-Wyss, A., Lengsfeld, H., Oesterhelt, G. Effect of oxiconazole and Ro 14–4767/002 on sterol pattern in Candida albicans. Sabouraudia 23, 433–441 (1985).

  129. Achari, A. et al. Crystal structure of the anti-bacterial sulfonamide drug target dihydropteroate synthase. Nature Struct. Biol. 4, 490–497 (1997).

  130. Longley, D. B., Harkin, D. P. & Johnston, P. G. 5-fluorouracil: mechanisms of action and clinical strategies. Nature Rev. Cancer 3, 330–338 (2003).

  131. Gilli, R., Lopez, C., Sari, J. C. & Briand, C. Thermodynamic study of the interaction of methotrexate, its metabolites, and new antifolates with thymidylate synthase: influence of FdUMP. Biochem. Pharmacol. 40, 2241–2246 (1990).

  132. Su, J. G., Mansour, J. M. & Mansour, T. E. Purification, kinetics and inhibition by antimonials of recombinant phosphofructokinase from Schistosoma mansoni. Mol. Biochem. Parasitol. 81, 171–178 (1996).

  133. Sehgal, S. N. Sirolimus: its discovery, biological properties, and mechanism of action. Transplant. Proc. 35 (Suppl 3), 7–14 (2003).

  134. Foley, M. & Tilley, L. Quinoline antimalarials: mechanisms of action and resistance and prospects for new agents. Pharmacol. Ther. 79, 55–87 (1998).

  135. Denning, D. W. Echinocandin antifungal drugs. Lancet 362, 1142–1151 (2003).

  136. McCormack, P. L. & Goa, K. L. Miglustat. Drugs 63, 2427–2434 (2003).

  137. Graham, M. L. Pegaspargase: a review of clinical studies. Adv. Drug Deliv. Rev. 55, 1293–1302 (2003).

  138. Pea, F. Pharmacology of drugs for hyperuricemia. Mechanisms, kinetics and interactions. Contrib. Nephrol. 147, 35–46 (2005).

  139. Dressler, D. & Adib Saberi, F. Botulinum toxin: mechanisms of action. Eur. Neurol. 53, 3–9 (2005).

  140. Czapinski, P., Blaszczyk, B. & Czuczwar, S. J. Mechanisms of action of antiepileptic drugs. Curr. Top. Med. Chem. 5, 3–14 (2005).

  141. Wafford, K. A. GABAA receptor subtypes: any clues to the mechanism of benzodiazepine dependence? Curr. Opin. Pharmacol. 5, 47–52 (2005).

  142. Hoffman, E. J. & Warren, E. W. Flumazenil: a benzodiazepine antagonist. Clin. Pharm. 12, 641–656 (1993).

  143. Martin, R. J., Robertson, A. P. & Bjorn, H. Target sites of anthelmintics. Parasitology 114 (Suppl), 111–124 (1997).

  144. Martin, R. J. Modes of action of anthelmintic drugs. Vet. J. 154, 11–34 (1997).

  145. McManus, M. C. Neuromuscular blockers in surgery and intensive care, Part 1. Am. J. Health Syst. Pharm. 58, 2287–2299 (2001).

  146. Bowman, W. C. Neuromuscular block. Br. J. Pharmacol. 147 S1, 277–286 (2006).

  147. Samochocki, M. et al. Galantamine is an allosterically potentiating ligand of the human alpha4/beta2 nAChR. Acta Neurol. Scand. Suppl. 176, 68–73 (2000).

  148. Rogawski, M. A. & Wenk, G. L. The neuropharmacological basis for the use of memantine in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. C. N. S. Drug Rev. (Fall) 9, 275–308 (2003).

  149. Dahchour, A. & De Witte, P. Ethanol and amino acids in the central nervous system: assessment of the pharmacological actions of acamprosate. Prog. Neurobiol. 60, 343–362 (2000).

  150. Kress, H. G. Mechanisms of action of ketamine. Anaesthesist 46 (Suppl. 1), 8–19 (1997).

  151. Gautam, D. et al. Cholinergic stimulation of salivary secretion studied with M1 and M3 muscarinic receptor single- and double-knockout mice. Mol. Pharmacol. 66, 260–267 (2004).

  152. Eglen, R. M., Choppin, A. & Watson, N. Therapeutic opportunities from muscarinic receptor research. Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 22, 409–414 (2001)

  153. Pitschner, H. F. et al. Selective antagonists reveal different functions of M cholinoceptor subtypes in humans. Trends Pharmacol. Sci. Suppl. 92–96 (1989).

  154. Hegde, S. S. et al. Functional role of M2 and M3 muscarinic receptors in the urinary bladder of rats in vitro and in vivo. Br. J. Pharmacol. 120, 1409–1418. (1997).

  155. Fredholm, B. B., Chen, J. F., Masino, S. A. & Vaugeois, J. M. Actions of adenosine at its receptors in the CNS: insights from knockouts and drugs. Annu. Rev. Pharmacol. Toxicol. 45, 385–412 (2005).

  156. Schumacher, B., Scholle, S., Holzl, J., Khudeir, N., Hess, S. & Muller, C. E. Lignans isolated from valerian: identification and characterization of a new olivil derivative with partial agonistic activity at A1 adenosine receptors. J. Nat. Prod. 65, 1479–1485 (2002).

  157. Fisone, G., Borgkvist, A. & Usiello, A. Caffeine as a psychomotor stimulant: mechanism of action. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 61, 857–872 (2004).

  158. Ruffolo, R. R., Bondinell, W. Jr. & Hieble, J. P. alpha- and beta-adrenoceptors: from the gene to the clinic. 2. Structure–activity relationships and therapeutic applications. J. Med. Chem. 38, 3681–3716 (1995).

  159. Hieble, J. P., Bondinell, W. & Ruffolo, R. R. From the gene to the clinic. 1. Molecular biology and adrenoceptor classification. J. Med. Chem. 38, 3415–3444 (1995).

  160. Silberstein, S. D. The pharmacology of ergotamine and dihydroergotamine. Headache 37 (Suppl. 1), 15–25 (1997).

  161. Burnier, M. Angiotensin II type 1 receptor blockers. Circulation 13, 904–12 (2001).

  162. Brown, E. M. Is the calcium receptor a molecular target for the actions of strontium on bone? Osteoporo. Int. 14 (Suppl 3), 25–34 (2003).

  163. Nemeth, E. F. et al. Pharmacodynamics of the type II calcimimetic compound cinacalcet HCl. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 308, 627–635 (2004).

  164. Grotenhermen, F. Pharmacology of cannabinoids. Neuro. Endocrinol. Lett. 25, 14–23 (2004).

  165. Nicosia, S. Pharmacodynamic properties of leukotriene receptor antagonists. Monaldi Arch. Chest Dis. 54, 242–246 (1999)

  166. Vallone, D., Picetti, R. & Borrelli, E. Structure and function of dopamine receptors. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. 24, 125–132 (2000).

  167. Clozel, M. et al. Pharmacological characterization of bosentan, a new potent orally active nonpeptide endothelin receptor antagonist. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 270, 228–235 (1994).

  168. Hill, D. R. & Bowery, N. G. 3H-Baclofen and 3H-GABA bind to bicuculline-insensitive GABAB sites in rat brain. Nature 290, 149–152 (1981).

  169. Unson, C. G. Molecular determinants of glucagon receptor signaling. Biopolymers 66, 218–235 (2002).

  170. Keating, G. M. Exenatide. Drugs 65, 1681–1692 (2005).

  171. Simons, F. E. Advances in H1-antihistamines. N. Engl. J. Med. 351, 2203–2217 (2004).

  172. Mills, J. G. & Wood, J. R. The pharmacology of histamine H2-receptor antagonists. Methods Find. Exp. Clin. Pharmacol. 11 (Suppl 1), 87–95 (1989).

  173. Pasternak, G. W. Molecular biology of opioid analgesia. J. Pain Symptom. Manage. 29 (Suppl.) S2–S9 (2005).

  174. Surratt, C. K. & Adams, W. R. G protein-coupled receptor structural motifs: relevance to the opioid receptors. Curr. Top. Med. Chem. 5, 315–324 (2005).

  175. Diemunsch, P. & Grelot, L. Potential of substance P antagonists as antiemetics. Drugs 60, 533–546 (2000).

  176. Narumiya, S., Sugimoto, Y. & Ushikubi, F. Prostanoid receptors: structures, properties, and functions. Physiol. Rev. 79, 1193–1226 (1999).

  177. Krauss, A. H. & Woodward, D. F. Update on the mechanism of action of bimatoprost: a review and discussion of new evidence. Surv. Ophthalmol. 49 (Suppl. 1), 5–11 (2004).

  178. Herbert, J. M. & Savi, P. P2Y12, a new platelet ADP receptor, target of clopidogrel. Semin. Vasc. Med. 3, 113–122 (2003).

  179. Tunnicliff, G. Molecular basis of buspirone's anxiolytic action. Pharmacol. Toxicol. 69, 149–156 (1991).

  180. Ahn, A. H. & Basbaum, A. I. Where do triptans act in the treatment of migraine? Pain 115, 1–4 (2005).

  181. Meltzer, H. Y., LI, Z., Kaneda, Y. & Ichikawa, J. Serotonin receptors: their key role in drugs to treat schizophrenia. Prog. Neuropsychopharmacol. Biol. Psychiatry 27, 1159–1172 (2003).

  182. Blower, P. R. Granisetron: relating pharmacology to clinical efficacy. Support Care Cancer 11, 93–100 (2003).

  183. Galligan, J. J. & Vanner, S. Basic and clinical pharmacology of new motility promoting agents. Neurogastroenterol. Motil. 17, 643–653 (2005).

  184. Chini, B. & Fanelli, F. Molecular basis of ligand binding and receptor activation in the oxytocin and vasopressin receptor family. Exp. Physiol. 85 Spec. No 59S–66S (2000).

  185. Kam, P. C., Williams, S. & Yoong, F. F. Vasopressin and terlipressin: pharmacology and its clinical relevance. Anaesthesia 59, 993–1001 (2004).

  186. Kopchick, J. J. Discovery and mechanism of action of pegvisomant. Eur. J. Endocrinol. 148 (Suppl. 2), 21–25 (2003).

  187. Zhu, Y. & D'Andrea, A. D. The molecular physiology of erythropoietin and the erythropoietin receptor. Curr. Opin. Hematol. 1, 113–118 (1994).

  188. Crawford, J. Neutrophil growth factors. Curr. Hematol. Rep. 1, 95–102 (2002).

  189. Sylvester, R. K. Clinical applications of colony-stimulating factors: a historical perspective. Am. J. Health Syst. Pharm. 59, Suppl 2, S6–12 (2002)

  190. Fleischmann, R., Stern, R. & Iqbal, I. Anakinra: an inhibitor of IL-1 for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Expert. Opin. Biol. Ther. 4, 1333–1344 (2004).

  191. Schmidinger, M., Hejna, M. & Zielinski, C. C. Aldesleukin in advanced renal cell carcinoma. Expert. Rev. Anticancer Ther. 4, 957–80 (2004).

  192. Cole, P. & Rabasseda, X. The soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor etanercept: a new strategy for the treatment of autoimmune rheumatic disease. Drugs Today (Barc.) 40, 281–324 (2004).

  193. Topol, E. J., Byzova, T. V. & Plow, E. F. Platelet GPIIb-IIIa blockers. Lancet 353, 227–231 (1999).

  194. Accili, D., Nakae, J. & Flier, J. S. in Diabetes Mellitus — A Fundamental and Clinical Text 3rd edn (eds LeRoith, D., Taylor, S. I. & Olefsky, J. M.) (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia, 2003).

  195. Jiang, G. & Zhang, B. B. Modulation of insulin signalling by insulin sensitizers. Biochem. Soc. Trans. 33, 358–361 (2005)

  196. Rogerson, F. M, Brennan, F. E. & Fuller, P. J. Mineralocorticoid receptor binding, structure and function. Mol. Cell. Endocrinol. 217, 203–212 (2004).

  197. Necela, B. M. & Cidlowski, J. A. Crystallization of the human glucocorticoid receptor ligand binding domain: a step towards selective glucocorticoids. Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 24, 58–61 (2003).

  198. Li, X. & O'Malley, B. W. Unfolding the action of progesterone receptors. J. Biol. Chem. 278, 39261–39264 (2003).

  199. Katzenellenbogen, B. S. et al. Molecular mechanisms of estrogen action: selective ligands and receptor pharmacology. J. Steroid Biochem. Mol. Biol. 74, 279–285 (2000).

  200. Levenson, A. S. & Jordan, V. C. Selective oestrogen receptor modulation: molecular pharmacology for the millennium. Eur. J. Cancer 35, 1628–1639 (1999).

  201. Gobinet, J., Poujol, N. & Sultan, Ch. Molecular action of androgens. Mol. Cell. Endocrinol. 198, 15–24 (2002).

  202. Roy, A. K. et al. Androgen receptor: structural domains and functional dynamics after ligand-receptor interaction. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 949, 44–57 (2001).

  203. Gao, W., Bohl, C. E. & Dalton, J. T. Chemistry and structural biology of androgen receptor. Chem. Rev. 105(9), 3352–3370 (2005).

  204. Neumann, F. The antiandrogen cyproterone acetate: discovery, chemistry, basic pharmacology, clinical use and tool in basic research. Exp. Clin. Endocrinol. 102, 1–32 (1994).

  205. Carlberg, C. Current understanding of the function of the nuclear vitamin D receptor in response to its natural and synthetic ligands. Recent Results Cancer Res. 164, 29–42 (2003)

  206. Pinette, K. V., Yee, Y. K., Amegadzie, B. Y. & Nagpal, S. Vitamin D receptor as a drug discovery target. Mini Rev. Med. Chem. 3, 193–204 (2003).

  207. Minucci, S. & Ozato, K. Retinoid receptors in transcriptional regulation. Curr. Opin. Genet. Dev. 6, 567–574 (1996).

  208. Zwermann, O., Schulte, D. M., Reincke, M. & Beuschlein, F. ACTH 1–24 inhibits proliferation of adrenocortical tumors in vivo. Eur. J. Endocrinol. 153, 435–444 (2005).

  209. The Retinoids. Biology, Chemistry and Medicine (eds Mangelsdorf, D. J. et al.) 319–349 (Raven Press, New York, 1994).

  210. Czernielewski, J., Michel, S., Bouclier, M., Baker, M. & Hensby, J. C. Adapalene biochemistry and the evolution of a new topical retinoid for treatment of acne. J. Eur. Acad. Dermatol. Venereol. 15 (Suppl 3), 5–12 (2001).

  211. Duriez, P. Mechanism of actions of statins and fibrates. Therapie 58, 5–14 (2003).

  212. Staels, B. et al. Mechanism of action of fibrates on lipid and lipoprotein metabolism. Circulation 98, 2088–2093 (1998).

  213. Willson, T. M. et al. The structure–activity relationship between peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor agonism and the antihyperglycemic activity of thiazolidinediones. J. Med. Chem. 39, 665–668 (1996).

  214. Brent, G. A. The molecular basis of thyroid hormone action. N. Engl. J. Med. 331, 847–853 (1994).

  215. Saier Lab Bioinformatics Group. Transport Classification Database, [online] (2006).

  216. Schmidt, D. & Elger, C. E. What is the evidence that oxcarbazepine and carbamazepine are distinctly different antiepileptic drugs? Epilepsy Behav. 5, 627–635 (2004).

  217. Greenberg, R. M. Are Ca2+ channels targets of praziquantel action? Int. J. Parasitol. 35, 1–9 (2005).

  218. Moosmang, S., Lenhardt, P., Haider, N., Hofmann, F. & Wegener, J. W. Mouse models to study L-type calcium channel function. Pharmacol. Ther. 106, 347–355 (2005).

  219. Triggle, D. J. 1, 4-Dihydropyridines as calcium channel ligands and privileged structures. Cell. Mol. Neurobiol. 23, 293–303 (2003).

  220. Striessnig, J., Grabner, M., Mitterdorfer, J., Hering, S., Sinnegger, M. J. & Glossmann, H. Structural basis of drug binding to L-Ca2+ channels. Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 19, 108–115 (1998).

  221. Meredith, P. A. Lercanidipine: a novel lipophilic dihydropyridine calcium antagonist with long duration of action and high vascular selectivity. Expert Opin. Investig. Drugs 8, 1043–1062 (1999).

  222. Dworkin, R. H. & Kirkpatrick, P. Pregabalin. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 4, 455–456 (2005).

  223. Ninomiya, T., Takano, M., Haruna, T., Kono, Y. & Horie, M. Verapamil, a Ca2+ entry blocker, targets the pore-forming subunit of cardiac type KATP channel (Kir6. 2). J. Cardiovasc. Pharmacol. 42, 161–168 (2003).

  224. Gomora, J. C., Daud, A. N., Weiergraber, M. & Perez-Reyes, E. Block of cloned human T-type calcium channels by succinimide antiepileptic drugs. Mol. Pharmacol. 60, 1121–1132 (2001).

  225. Tamargo, J., Caballero, R., Gomez, R., Valenzuela, C. & Delpon, E. Pharmacology of cardiac potassium channels. Cardiovasc. Res. 62, 9–33 (2004).

  226. Ashcroft, F. M. & Gribble, F. M. New windows on the mechanism of action of K(ATP) channel openers. Trends Pharmacol. Sci. 21, 439–445 (2000).

  227. Davies, M. P., McCurrie, J. R. & Wood, D. Comparative effects of K+ channel modulating agents on contractions of rat intestinal smooth muscle. Eur. J. Pharmacol. 297, 249–256 (1996).

  228. Hu, S., Boettcher, B. R. & Dunning, B. E. The mechanisms underlying the unique pharmacodynamics of nateglinide. Diabetologia 46 (Suppl. 1), M37–43 (2003).

  229. Bryan, J., Crane, A., Vila-Carriles, W. H., Babenko, A. P. & Aguilar-Bryan, L. Insulin secretagogues, sulfonylurea receptors and K(ATP) channels. Curr. Pharm. Des. 11, 2699–2716 (2005).

  230. Kodama, I., Kamiya, K. & Toyama, J. Amiodarone: ionic and cellular mechanisms of action of the most promising class III agent. Am. J. Cardiol. 84, 20R–28R (1999).

  231. Roden, D. M. Antiarrhythmic drugs: past, present, and future. J. Cardiovasc. Electrophysiol. 14, 1389–1396 (2003).

  232. Ambrosio, A. F., Soares-Da-Silva, P., Carvalho, C. M. & Carvalho, A. P. Mechanisms of action of carbamazepine and its derivatives, oxcarbazepine, BIA 2–093, and BIA 2–024. Neurochem. Res. 27, 121–130 (2002).

  233. Falk, R. H. & Fogel, R. I. Flecainide. J. Cardiovasc. Electrophysiol. 5, 964–981 (1994).

  234. Coulter, D. A. Antiepileptic drug cellular mechanisms of action: where does lamotrigine fit in? J. Child Neurol. 12 (Suppl. 1), S2–S9 (1997).

  235. Southam, E. et al. Effect of lamotrigine on the activities of monoamine oxidases A and B in vitro and on monoamine disposition in vivo. Eur. J. Pharmacol. 519, 237–245 (2005).

  236. Lou, B. S., Lin, T. H. & Lo, C. Z. The interactions of phenytoin and its binding site in DI-S6 segment of Na+ channel voltage-gated peptide by NMR spectroscopy and molecular modeling study. J. Pept. Res. 66, 27–38 (2005).

  237. Faber, T. S. & Camm, A. J. The differentiation of propafenone from other class Ic agents, focusing on the effect on ventricular response rate attributable to its beta-blocking action. Eur. J. Clin. Pharmacol. 51, 199–208 (1996).

  238. White, H. S. Molecular pharmacology of topiramate: managing seizures and preventing migraine. Headache 45 (Suppl. 1), S48–S56 (2005).

  239. Gurvich, N. & Klein, P. S. Lithium and valproic acid: parallels and contrasts in diverse signaling contexts. Pharmacol. Ther. 96, 45–66 (2002).

  240. Kang, M., Lisk, G., Hollingworth, S., Baylor, S. M. & Desai, S. A. Malaria parasites are rapidly killed by dantrolene derivatives specific for the plasmodial surface anion channel. Mol. Pharmacol. 68, 34–40 (2005).

  241. Parness, J. & Palnitkar, S. S. Identification of dantrolene binding sites in porcine skeletal muscle sarcoplasmatic reticulum. J. Biol. Chem. 270, 18465–18472 (1995).

  242. Zygmunt, P. M., Chuang, H., Movahed, P., Julius, D. & Hogestatt, E. D. The anandamide transport inhibitor AM404 activates vanilloid receptors. Eur. J. Pharmacol. 396, 39–42 (2000).

  243. Dutzler, R. The structural basis of ClC chloride channel function. Trends Neurosci. 27, 315–320 (2004).

  244. Reinsprecht, M., Pecht, I., Schindler, H. & Romanin, C. Potent block of Cl- channels by antiallergic drugs. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 188, 957–963 (1992).

  245. Cheeseman, C. L., Delany, N. S., Woods, D. J. & Wolstenholme, A. J. High-affinity ivermectin binding to recombinant subunits of the Haemonchus contortus glutamate-gated chloride channel. Mol. Biochem. Parasitol. 114, 161–168 (2001).

  246. Saier Lab Bioinformatics Group, Transport Classicication Database,

  247. Gamba, G. Molecular physiology and pathophysiology of electroneutral cation-chloride cotransporters. Physiol. Rev. 85, 423–493 (2005).

  248. Ellison, D. H. The thiazide-sensitive Na-Cl cotransporter and human disease: reemergence of an old player. J. Am. Soc. Nephrol. 14, 538–540 (2003).

  249. Plata, C., Meade, P., Hall, A., Welch, R. C., Vazquez, N., Hebert, S. C., Gamba, G. Alternatively spliced isoform of apical Na+-K+-Cl- cotransporter gene encodes a furosemide-sensitive Na+-Cl-cotransporter. Am. J. Physiol. Renal. Physiol. 280, F574–582 (2001).

  250. Kleyman, T. R., Sheng, S., Kosari, F. & Kieber-Emmons, T. Mechanism of action of amiloride: a molecular prospective. Semin. Nephrol. 19, 524–532 (1999).

  251. Ismailov, I. I. et al. Identification of an amiloride binding domain within the alpha-subunit of the epithelial Na+ channel. J. Biol. Chem. 272, 21075–21083 (1997).

  252. Priewer, H. & Ullrich, F. Potassium and magnesium retaining triamterene derivatives. Pharmazie 52, 179–181 (1997).

  253. Eckstein-Ludwig, U. et al. Artemisinins target the SERCA of Plasmodium falciparum. Nature 424, 957–961 (2003).

  254. Olbe, L., Carlsson, E. & Lindberg, P. A proton-pump inhibitor expedition: the case histories of omeprazole and esomeprazole. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 2, 132–139 (2003).

  255. Paula, S., Tabet, M. R. & Ball, W. J. Jr. Interactions between cardiac glycosides and sodium/potassium-ATPase: three-dimensional structure-activity relationship models for ligand binding to the E2-Pi form of the enzyme versus activity inhibition. Biochemistry 44, 498–510 (2005).

  256. Garcia-Calvo, M. et al. The target of ezetimibe is Niemann-Pick C1-Like 1 (NPC1L1). Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 102, 8132–8137 (2005).

  257. Goldberg, N. R., Beuming, T., Soyer, O. S., Goldstein, R. A., Weinstein, H. & Javitch, J. A. Probing conformational changes in neurotransmitter transporters: a structural context. Eur. J. Pharmacol. 479, 3–12 (2003).

  258. Saier, Jr., M. H. A functional-phylogenetic system for the classification of transport proteins. J. Cell Biochem. Suppl. 32–33, 84–94 (1999).

  259. Owens, M. J., Morgan, W. N., Plott, S. J. & Nemeroff, C. B. Neurotransmitter receptor and transporter binding profile of antidepressants and their metabolites. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 283, 1305–1322 (1997).

  260. Blakely, R. D., De Felice, L. J. & Hartzell, H. C. Molecular physiology of norepinephrine and serotonin transporters. J. Exp. Biol. 196, 263–281 (1994).

  261. Bondarev, M. L., Bondareva, T. S., Young, R. & Glennon, R. A. Behavioral and biochemical investigations of bupropion metabolites. Eur. J. Pharmacol. 474, 85–93 (2003).

  262. Beique, J. C., Lavoie, N., de Montigny, C. & Debonnel, G. Affinities of venlafaxine and various reuptake inhibitors for the serotonin and norepinephrine transporters. Eur. J. Pharmacol. 349, 129–132 (1998).

  263. Henry, J. P. et al. Biochemistry and molecular biology of the vesicular monoamine transporter from chromaffin granules. J. Exp. Biol. 196, 251–262 (1994).

  264. Deupree, J. D. & Weaver, J. A. Identification and characterization of the catecholamine ransporter in bovine chromaffin granules using [3H]reserpine. J. Biol. Chem. 259, 10907–10912 (1984).

  265. Dervan, P. B. Molecular recognition of DNA by small molecules. Bioorg. Med. Chem. 9, 2215–2235 (2001).

  266. Mattes, W. B., Hartley, J. A. & Kohn, K. W. DNA sequence selectivity of guanine-N7 alkylation by nitrogen mustards. Nucleic Acids Res. 14, 2971–2987 (1986).

  267. Maccubbin, A. E., Caballes, L., Scappaticci, F., Struck, R. F. & Gurtoo, H. L. 32P-postlabeling analysis of binding of the cyclophosphamide metabolite, acrolein, to DNA. Cancer Commun. 2, 207–211 (1990).

  268. Sanada, M., Takagi, Y., Ito, R. & Sekiguchi, M. Killing and mutagenic actions of dacarbazine, a chemotherapeutic alkylating agent, on human and mouse cells: effects of Mgmt and Mlh1 mutations. DNA Repair (Amst.) 3, 413–420 (2004).

  269. Delalande, O., Malina, J., Brabec, V. & Kozelka, J. Chiral differentiation of DNA adducts formed by enantiomeric analogues of antitumor cisplatin is sequence-dependent. Biophys. J. 88, 4159–4169 (2005).

  270. Siddik, Z. H. Cisplatin: mode of cytotoxic action and molecular basis of resistance. Oncogene 22, 7265–7279 (2003).

  271. Temperini, C. et al. The crystal structure of the complex between a disaccharide anthracycline and the DNA hexamer d(CGATCG) reveals two different binding sites involving two DNA duplexes. Nucleic Acids Res. 31, 1464–1469 (2003).

  272. Hecht, S. M. Bleomycin: new perspectives on the mechanism of action. J. Nat. Prod. 63, 158–168 (2000).

  273. Lamp, K. C., Freeman, C. D., Klutman, N. E. & Lacy, M. K. Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of the nitroimidazole antimicrobials. Clin. Pharmacokinet. 36, 353–373 (1999).

  274. Carter, A. P. et al. Functional insights from the structure of the 30S ribosomal subunit and its interactions with antibiotics. Nature 407, 340–348 (2000).

  275. Schlunzen, F. et al. Structural basis for the interaction of antibiotics with the peptidyl transferase centre in eubacteria. Nature 413, 814–821 (2001).

  276. Colca, J. R. et al. Cross-linking in the living cell locates the site of action of oxazolidinone antibiotics. J. Biol. Chem. 278, 21972–21979 (2003).

  277. Duflos, A., Kruczynski, A., Barret, J. M. Novel aspects of natural and modified vinca alkaloids. Curr. Med. Chem. Anti-Canc. Agents 2, 55–70 (2002).

  278. Lipp, H. P. & Bokemeyer, C. The action and toxicity of taxanes. Pharm. Unserer Zeit 34, 128–137 (2005).

  279. Molad, Y. Update on colchicine and its mechanism of action. Curr. Rheumatol. Rep. 4, 252–256 (2002).

  280. Hermann, T. Drugs targeting the ribosome. Curr. Opin. Struct. Biol. 15, 355–366 (2005).

  281. Anokhina, M. M., Barta, A., Nierhaus, K. H., Spiridonova, V. A. & Kopylov, A. M. Mapping of the second tetracycline binding site on the ribosomal small subunit of E. coli. Nucleic Acids Res. 32, 2594–2597 (2004).

  282. Spizek, J., Novotna, J. & Rezanka, T. Lincosamides: chemical structure, biosynthesis, mechanism of action, resistance, and applications. Adv. Appl. Microbiol. 56, 121–154 (2004).

  283. Harms, J. M., Schlunzen, F., Fucini, P., Bartels, H. & Yonath, A. Alterations at the peptidyl transferase centre of the ribosome induced by the synergistic action of the streptogramins dalfopristin and quinupristin. BMC Biol. 2, 4 (2004).

  284. Nygren, P., Sorbye, H., Osterlund, P. & Pfeiffer, P. targeted drugs in metastatic colorectal cancer with special emphasis on guidelines for the use of bevacizu-mab and cetuximab. Acta Oncol. 44, 203–217 (2005).

  285. Muhsin, M., Graham, J. & Kirkpatrick, P. Bevacizumab. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 3, 995–996 (2004).

  286. Marecki, S. & Kirkpatrick, P. Efalizumab. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 3, 473–474 (2004).

  287. Goldberg, R. M. Cetuximab. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 4, S10–S11 (2005).

  288. Albanell, J., Codony, J., Rovira, A., Mellado, B. & Gascon, P. Mechanism of action of anti-HER2 monoclonal antibodies: scientific update on trastuzumab and 2C4. Adv. Exp. Med. Biol. 532, 253–268 (2003).

  289. Davis, L. A. Omalizumab: a novel therapy for allergic asthma. Ann. Pharmacother. 38, 1236–1242 (2004).

  290. Hooks, M. A., Wade, C. S. & Millikan, W. J., Jr. Muromonab CD-3: a review of its pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, and clinical use in transplantation. Pharmacotherapy 11, 26–37 (1991).

  291. Witzig, T. E. Yttrium-90-ibritumomab tiuxetan radioimmunotherapy: a new treatment approach for B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Drugs Today (Barc.) 40, 111–119 (2004).

  292. Multani, P. & White, C. A. Rituximab. Cancer Chemother. Biol. Response Modif. 21, 235–258 (2003).

  293. Linenberger, M. L. CD33-directed therapy with gemtuzumab ozogamicin in acute myeloid leukemia: progress in understanding cytotoxicity and potential mechanisms of drug resistance. Leukemia 19, 176–182 (2005).

  294. Frampton, J. E. & Wagstaff, A. J. Alemtuzumab. Drugs 63, 1229–1243 (2003).

  295. Scott, L. J. & Lamb, H. M. Palivizumab. Drugs 58, 305–313 (1999).

  296. Kapic, E., Becic, F. & Kusturica, J. Basiliximab, mechanism of action and pharmacological properties. Med. Arh. 58, 373–376 (2004).

  297. Carswell, C. I., Plosker, G. L. & Wagstaff, A. J. Daclizumab: a review of its use in the management of organ transplantation. BioDrugs 15, 745–773 (2001).

  298. Bain, B. & Brazil, M. Adalimumab. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 2, 693–694 (2003).

  299. Winterfield, L. S. & Menter, A. Infliximab. Dermatol. Ther. 17, 409–426 (2004).

  300. Faulds, D. & Sorkin, E. M. Abciximab (c7E3 Fab). A review of its pharmacology and therapeutic potential in ischaemic heart disease. Drugs 48, 583–598 (1994).

  301. Noseworthy, J. H. & Kirkpatrick, P. Natalizumab. Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 4, 101–102 (2005).

Author affiliations

  1. Peter Imming, Christian Sinning and Achim Meyer are at Institut für Pharmazie, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, 06120 Halle, Germany.

Correspondence to: Peter Imming1 Email: