On their surface, cells have specialized structures, so-called receptors, which are able to communicate external stimuli into the inner compartments of the cell. The group of G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) plays a very important role for such processes. Because they represent the central switch for almost all functions and processes inside of the human body, nowadays about 40 per cent of all active pharmaceutical ingredients constitute chemical entities which are able to selectively activate or block GPCRs (“ligands”). However, only little is known about the dynamics of these processes. How are these processes mediated at all and why do certain ligands e.g. activate a single distince signaling pathway only?
To answer these and other questions, novel molecular tools are being developed and synthesized chemically within the Graduate program “Receptor Dynamics”. They can be used for investigating a huge number of processes of signaling pathways, e.g. compounds which can be switched “on” and “off” by light or other ones being able to produce a single, distinct cell answer only. Besides such fundamental research activities, another type of molecules is being synthezied which is totally different from the aforementioned: so-calles isotope labeled ligands of the investigated GPCRs. They can be used for in vivo imaging in animals and humans, e.g. positron-emission tomography to visualize different types of receptors. Thus, dynamic processes being responsible for GPCR activation or attenuation during certain diseases could be used as diagnostic vehicles.