For good health, all the different types of cells in our bodies must communicate with each other and especially with the brain, and modulate each other. Much of this intercellular communication is done by peptide hormones and neurotransmitters. Generally, these compounds interact with proteins that are imbedded on the cell surface membrane and are called G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). These interactions then lead to changes in the cells’ functions. This process is referred to as information transduction. A breakdown in these communications, either directly or indirectly, leads to many of the degenerative diseases of the mind and body. Indeed, over 30% of our current drugs interact directly with GPCRs and many others intervene in the intercellular chemical pathways that are modulated by hormones, neurotransmitters and GPCRs. Cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, most mental disorders, pain and addiction involve these systems. Specific examples related to pain, addiction and behaviors such as eating and sexual function will be discussed.
Presenter: Victor J. Hruby, Regents Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Arizona