Heterologous expression of excitability proteins: route to more specific drugs?

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Science  26 Aug 1988:
Vol. 241, Issue 4869, pp. 1057-1063
DOI: 10.1126/science.2457947


Many clinically important drugs act on the intrinsic membrane proteins (ion channels, receptors, and ion pumps) that control cell excitability. A major goal of pharmacology has been to develop drugs that are more specific for a particular subtype of excitability molecule. DNA cloning has revealed that many excitability proteins are encoded by multigene families and that the diversity of previously recognized pharmacological subtypes is matched, and probably surpassed, by the diversity of messenger RNAs that encode excitability molecules. In general, the diverse subtypes retain their properties when the excitability proteins are expressed in foreign cells such as oocytes and mammalian cell lines. Such heterologous expression may therefore become a tool for testing drugs against specific subtypes. In a systematic research program to exploit this possibility, major considerations include alternative processing of messenger RNA for excitability proteins, coupling to second-messenger systems, and expression of enough protein to provide material for structural studies.