Biological target

A biological target is anything within a living organism to which some other entity (like an endogenous ligand or a drug) is directed and/or binds, resulting in a change in its behavior or function. Examples of common classes of biological targets are proteins and nucleic acids. The definition is context-dependent, and can refer to the biological target of a pharmacologically active drug compound, the receptor target of a hormone (like insulin), or some other target of an external stimulus. Biological targets are most commonly proteins such as enzymes, ion channels, and receptors.


The external stimulus (i.e., the drug or ligand) physically binds to ("hits") the biological target.[1][2] The interaction between the substance and the target may be:

Depending on the nature of the stimulus, the following can occur:[3]

Drug targets

The term "biological target" is frequently used in pharmaceutical research to describe the native protein in the body whose activity is modified by a drug resulting in a specific effect, which may be a desirable therapeutic effect or an unwanted adverse effect. In this context, the biological target is often referred to as a drug target. The most common drug targets of currently marketed drugs include:[4][5][6]

Drug target identification

Identifying the biological origin of a disease, and the potential targets for intervention, is the first step in the discovery of a medicine. This has been a great challenge for both academia and industry. Number of different approaches and technologies are reviewed.[8]


Databases containing biological targets information:

See also


  1. Raffa RB, Porreca F (1989). "Thermodynamic analysis of the drug-receptor interaction". Life Sci. 44 (4): 245–58. doi:10.1016/0024-3205(89)90182-3. PMID 2536880.
  2. Moy VT, Florin EL, Gaub HE (1994). "Intermolecular forces and energies between ligands and receptors". Science. 266 (5183): 257–9. doi:10.1126/science.7939660. PMID 7939660.
  3. Rang HP, Dale MM, Ritter JM, Flower RJ, Henderson G (2012). "Chapter 3: How drugs act: molecular aspects". Rang and Dale's Pharmacology. Edinburgh; New York: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone. pp. 20–48. ISBN 0-7020-3471-1.
  4. Rang HP, Dale MM, Ritter JM, Flower RJ, Henderson G (2012). "Chapter 2: How drugs act: general principles". Rang and Dale's Pharmacology. Edinburgh; New York: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone. pp. 6–19. ISBN 0-7020-3471-1.
  5. Overington JP, Al-Lazikani B, Hopkins AL (2006). "How many drug targets are there?". Nat Rev Drug Discov. 5 (12): 993–6. doi:10.1038/nrd2199. PMID 17139284.
  6. Landry Y, Gies JP (2008). "Drugs and their molecular targets: an updated overview". Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 22 (1): 1–18. doi:10.1111/j.1472-8206.2007.00548.x. PMID 18251718.
  7. Lundstrom K (2009). "An overview on GPCRs and drug discovery: structure-based drug design and structural biology on GPCRs". Methods Mol. Biol. 552: 51–66. doi:10.1007/978-1-60327-317-6_4. PMID 19513641.
  8. Lomenick, Brett; Olsen, Richard W.; Huang, Jing (21 January 2011). "Identification of Direct Protein Targets of Small Molecules". ACS Chemical Biology. 6 (1): 34–46. doi:10.1021/cb100294v.
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