Three's company: Two or more unrelated receptors pair with the same ligand

Izhar Ben-Shlomo, Aaron J.W. Hsueh

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Intercellular communication relies on signal transduction mediated by extracellular ligands and their receptors. Although the ligand-receptor interaction is usually a two-player event, there are selective examples of one polypeptide ligand interacting with more than one phylogenetically unrelated receptor. Likewise, a few receptors interact with more than one polypeptide ligand, and sometimes with more than one coreceptor, likely through an interlocking of unique protein domains. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that for certain triumvirates, the matching events could have taken place at different evolutionary times. In contrast to a few polypeptide ligands interacting with more than one receptor, we found that many small nonpeptide ligands have been paired with two or more plasma membrane receptors, nuclear receptors, or channels. The observation that many small ligands are paired with more than one receptor type highlights the utilitarian use of a limited number of cellular components during metazoan evolution. These conserved ligands are ubiquitous cell metabolites likely favored by natural selection to establish novel regulatory networks. They likely possess structural features useful for designing agonistic and antagonistic drugs to target diverse receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1097-1109
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes


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