G proteins mediate the action of G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), a major target of current pharmaceuticals and a major target of interest in future drug development. Most pharmaceutical interest has been in the development of selective GPCR agonists and antagonists that activate or inhibit specific GPCRs. Some recent thinking has focused on the idea that some pathologies are the result of the actions of an array of GPCRs suggesting that targeting single receptors may have limited efficacy. Thus, targeting pathways common to multiple GPCRs that control critical pathways involved in disease has potential therapeutic relevance. G protein βγ subunits released from some GPCRs upon receptor activation regulate a variety of downstream pathways to control various aspects of mammalian physiology. There is evidence from cell-based and animal models that excess Gβγ signaling can be detrimental and blocking Gβγ signaling has salutary effects in a number of pathological models. Gβγ regulates downstream pathways through modulation of enzymes that produce cellular second messengers or through regulation of ion channels by direct protein-protein interactions. Thus, blocking Gβγ functions requires development of small molecule agents that disrupt Gβγ protein interactions with downstream partners. Here we discuss evidence that small molecule targeting Gβγ could be of therapeutic value. The concept of disruption of protein-protein interactions by targeting a “hot spot” on Gβγ is delineated and the biochemical and virtual screening strategies for identification of small molecules that selectively target Gβγ functions are outlined. Evaluation of the effectiveness of virtual screening indicates that computational screening enhanced identification of true Gβγ binding molecules. However, further refinement of the approach could significantly improve the yield of Gβγ binding molecules from this screen that could result in multiple candidate leads for future drug development.
Keywords: G protein βγ subunits, GRK2ct, computational screening, G protein-coupled receptor, small molecule targeting, protein-protein interactions, G protein signaling