Takafumi Hara

Kyoto University, Kioto, Kyōto, Japan

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Publications (22)100.58 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Free fatty acids (FFAs) are energy-generating nutrients that act as signaling molecules in various cellular processes. Several orphan G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that act as FFA receptors (FFARs) have been identified and play important physiological roles in various diseases. FFA ligands are obtained from food sources and metabolites produced during digestion and lipase degradation of triglyceride stores. FFARs can be grouped according to ligand profiles, depending on the length of carbon chains of the FFAs. Medium- and long-chain FFAs activate FFA1/GPR40 and FFA4/GPR120. Short-chain FFAs activate FFA2/GPR43 and FFA3/GPR41. However, only medium-chain FFAs, and not long-chain FFAs, activate GPR84 receptor. A number of pharmacological and physiological studies have shown that these receptors are expressed in various tissues and are primarily involved in energy metabolism. Because an impairment of these processes is a part of the pathology of obesity and type 2 diabetes, FFARs are considered as key therapeutic targets. Here, we reviewed recently published studies on the physiological functions of these receptors, primarily focusing on energy homeostasis.
    Biochimica et biophysica acta. 06/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Medium- and long-chain free fatty acids (FFAs) are energy source for whole body and biological metabolites and components. In these decades, some research groups have reported that the biological functions of medium- to long-chain FFAs are exerted through G-protein coupled receptor designated free fatty acid receptor (FFAR). As the medium- to long-chain FFAs-activated FFARs, FFA1 and FFA4 are reported to be expressed widely in whole body and regulate various physiological processes. FFA1 expressed in pancreatic β-cells has been shown to be involved in insulin secretion. FFA4 expressed in intestine, adipocytes, and macrophages has been shown to be involved in incretin secretion, differentiation, and anti-inflammatory effect, respectively. These physiological functions have been focused on the treatment of metabolic disorders. In addition, these receptors have been also reported to be expressed in several other tissues such as intestine for FFA1, and tongue and stomach for FFA4. The recent functional studies indicated that they also contributed to energy homeostasis. Further, the number of synthetic compounds of FFA1 and FFA4 strongly promoted the physiological characterization of the receptors and their own therapeutic utility. In this article, we will discuss the recent progress regarding the therapeutic potential of these receptors and its ligands.
    Frontiers in Endocrinology 01/2014; 5:83.
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    ABSTRACT: Free fatty acids (FFAs) are fundamental units of key nutrients. FFAs exert various biological functions, depending on the chain length and degree of desaturation. Recent studies have shown that several FFAs act as ligands of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), activate intracellular signaling and exert physiological functions via these GPCRs. GPR120 (also known as free fatty acid receptor 4) is activated by unsaturated medium- to long-chain FFAs and has a critical role in various physiological homeostasis mechanisms such as incretin hormone secretion, food preference, anti-inflammation, and adipogenesis. Recent studies showed that a lipid sensor GPR120 has a key role in sensing dietary fat in white adipose tissue and regulates the whole body energy homeostasis in both humans and rodents. Genetic study in human identified the loss-of-functional mutation of GPR120 associated with obesity and insulin resistance. In addition, dysfunction of GPR120 has been linked as a novel risk factor for diet-induced obesity. This review aims to provide evidence from the recent development in physiological function of GPR120 and discusses its functional roles in the regulation of energy homeostasis and its potential as drug targets.
    Frontiers in Endocrinology 01/2014; 5:111.
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    ABSTRACT: Free fatty acids (FFAs) are energy-generating nutrients that act as signaling molecules in various cellular processes. Several orphan G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that act as FFA receptors (FFARs) have been identified and play important physiological roles in various diseases. FFA ligands are obtained from food sources and metabolites produced during digestion and lipase degradation of triglyceride stores. FFARs can be grouped according to ligand profiles, depending on the length of carbon chains of the FFAs. Medium- and long-chain FFAs activate FFA1/GPR40 and FFA4/GPR120. Short-chain FFAs activate FFA2/GPR43 and FFA3/GPR41. However, only medium-chain FFAs, and not long-chain FFAs, activate GPR84 receptor. A number of pharmacological and physiological studies have shown that these receptors are expressed in various tissues and are primarily involved in energy metabolism. Because an impairment of these processes is a part of the pathology of obesity and type 2 diabetes, FFARs are considered as key therapeutic targets. Here, we reviewed recently published studies on the physiological functions of these receptors, primarily focusing on energy homeostasis.
    Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids 01/2014; · 4.13 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The free fatty acid receptor (FFAR) is a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) activated by free fatty acids (FFAs), which play important roles not only as essential nutritional components but also as signaling molecules in numerous physiological processes. In the last decade, FFARs have been identified by the GPCR deorphanization strategy derived from the human genome database. To date, several FFARs have been identified and characterized as critical components in various physiological processes. FFARs are categorized according to the chain length of FFA ligands that activate each FFAR; FFA2 and FFA3 are activated by short chain FFAs, GPR84 is activated by medium-chain FFAs, whereas FFA1 and GPR120 are activated by medium- or long-chain FFAs. FFARs appear to act as physiological sensors for food-derived FFAs and digestion products in the gastrointestinal tract. Moreover, they are considered to be involved in the regulation of energy metabolism mediated by the secretion of insulin and incretin hormones and by the regulation of the sympathetic nerve systems, taste preferences, and inflammatory responses related to insulin resistance. Therefore, because FFARs can be considered to play important roles in physiological processes and various pathophysiological processes, FFARs have been targeted in therapeutic strategies for the treatment of metabolic disorders including type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In this review, we present a summary of recent progress regarding the understanding of their physiological roles in the regulation of energy metabolism and their potential as therapeutic targets.
    Ergebnisse der Physiologie 04/2013; · 1.00 Impact Factor
  • Folia Pharmacologica Japonica 12/2012; 140(6):275-9.
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE:  FFA1 (previously designated GPR40) and GPR120 are G protein-coupled receptors whose endogenous ligands are medium- and long-chain free fatty acids, and they play important roles in regulating insulin and GLP-1 secretion, respectively. Given that the ligands of FFA1 and GPR120 have similar properties, selective pharmacological tools are required to study their functions further. EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH:  We examined FFA1-selective agonists based on a docking simulation approach using homology models for each receptor. KEY RESULTS:  We investigated the structure-activity relationships (SARs) of a series of synthesized carboxylic acid derivatives by conducting docking simulations using homology models of FFA1 and GPR120. The calculated hydrogen bonding energies between the compounds and the models were correlated well with the effect of the compounds on extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) responses as experimentally shown in heterologous expression systems (R(2) = 0.65, FFA1 and 0.76, GPR120). NCG75, the compound with the highest predicted selectivity for FFA1 from the SAR analyses, activated ERK and increased intracellular calcium ([Ca(2+) ](i) ) with comparable potency to the FFA1-selective agonist Compound 1. Furthermore, site-directed mutagenesis analysis based on the docking simulation showed that different amino acid residues were important for the recognition and activation of FFA1 agonists. Moreover, NCG75 strongly activated ERK and [Ca(2+) ](i) responses, and also promoted insulin secretion from the murine pancreatic β cell line MIN6 which expresses FFA1 endogenously. CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS:  The results of the present study showed that a docking simulation approach using FFA1 and GPR120 homology models could be useful in predicting the FFA1-selective agonistic activity of compounds. © 2012 The Authors. British Journal of Pharmacology © 2012 The British Pharmacological Society.
    British Journal of Pharmacology 05/2012; · 5.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Synapsins are neuronal phosphoproteins that coat synaptic vesicles and are believed to function in the regulation of neurotransmitter release. The signaling mechanism for short-chain free fatty acid (SCFA)-stimulated NE release was examined using primary-cultured mouse sympathetic cervical ganglion neurons. Pharmacological and knockdown experiments showed that activation of sympathetic neurons by SCFA propionate involves SCFA receptor GPR41 linking to G??-PLC?3-ERK1/2-synapsin 2 signaling. Further, synapsin 2b directly interacts with activated ERK1/2 and can be phosphorylated on serine when SCFA activates sympathetic neurons.
    FEBS letters 05/2012; 586(10):1547-54. · 3.54 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Free fatty acids provide an important energy source as nutrients, and act as signalling molecules in various cellular processes. Several G-protein-coupled receptors have been identified as free-fatty-acid receptors important in physiology as well as in several diseases. GPR120 (also known as O3FAR1) functions as a receptor for unsaturated long-chain free fatty acids and has a critical role in various physiological homeostasis mechanisms such as adipogenesis, regulation of appetite and food preference. Here we show that GPR120-deficient mice fed a high-fat diet develop obesity, glucose intolerance and fatty liver with decreased adipocyte differentiation and lipogenesis and enhanced hepatic lipogenesis. Insulin resistance in such mice is associated with reduced insulin signalling and enhanced inflammation in adipose tissue. In human, we show that GPR120 expression in adipose tissue is significantly higher in obese individuals than in lean controls. GPR120 exon sequencing in obese subjects reveals a deleterious non-synonymous mutation (p.R270H) that inhibits GPR120 signalling activity. Furthermore, the p.R270H variant increases the risk of obesity in European populations. Overall, this study demonstrates that the lipid sensor GPR120 has a key role in sensing dietary fat and, therefore, in the control of energy balance in both humans and rodents.
    Nature 02/2012; 483(7389):350-4. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Free fatty acids (FFAs) are not only essential nutritional components, but they also act as signaling molecules in various physiological processes. Recently, a G-protein-coupled receptor deorphanizing strategy has successfully identified a family of receptors that are activated by FFAs. FFA receptors (FFARs) are proposed to play critical roles in a variety of physiological and pathophysiological processes, especially in metabolic disorders. Among the FFARs, FFAR1 (GPR40) and GPR120 are activated by medium- and long-chain FFAs. FFAR1 facilitates glucose-stimulated insulin secretion from pancreatic β-cells, whereas GPR120 regulates the secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1 in the intestine, as well as insulin sensitivity in macrophages. Because these receptors are potential therapeutic targets for metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes, selective ligands have been developed. In this review, we discuss recent advances in the identification of ligands, structure activity relationships, and pharmacological characterization of FFAR1 and GPR120, and we present a summary of recent progress in understanding their physiological roles and their potential as drug targets.
    Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 05/2011; 100(9):3594-601. · 3.13 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The maintenance of energy homeostasis is essential for life, and its dysregulation leads to a variety of metabolic disorders. Under a fed condition, mammals use glucose as the main metabolic fuel, and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) produced by the colonic bacterial fermentation of dietary fiber also contribute a significant proportion of daily energy requirement. Under ketogenic conditions such as starvation and diabetes, ketone bodies produced in the liver from fatty acids are used as the main energy sources. To balance energy intake, dietary excess and starvation trigger an increase or a decrease in energy expenditure, respectively, by regulating the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The regulation of metabolic homeostasis by glucose is well recognized; however, the roles of SCFAs and ketone bodies in maintaining energy balance remain unclear. Here, we show that SCFAs and ketone bodies directly regulate SNS activity via GPR41, a Gi/o protein-coupled receptor for SCFAs, at the level of the sympathetic ganglion. GPR41 was most abundantly expressed in sympathetic ganglia in mouse and humans. SCFA propionate promoted sympathetic outflow via GPR41. On the other hand, a ketone body, β-hydroxybutyrate, produced during starvation or diabetes, suppressed SNS activity by antagonizing GPR41. Pharmacological and siRNA experiments indicated that GPR41-mediated activation of sympathetic neurons involves Gβγ-PLCβ-MAPK signaling. Sympathetic regulation by SCFAs and ketone bodies correlated well with their respective effects on energy consumption. These findings establish that SCFAs and ketone bodies directly regulate GPR41-mediated SNS activity and thereby control body energy expenditure in maintaining metabolic homeostasis.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2011; 108(19):8030-5. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The discovery of novel bioactive molecules advances our systems-level understanding of biological processes and is crucial for innovation in drug development. For this purpose, the emerging field of chemical genomics is currently focused on accumulating large assay data sets describing compound-protein interactions (CPIs). Although new target proteins for known drugs have recently been identified through mining of CPI databases, using these resources to identify novel ligands remains unexplored. Herein, we demonstrate that machine learning of multiple CPIs can not only assess drug polypharmacology but can also efficiently identify novel bioactive scaffold-hopping compounds. Through a machine-learning technique that uses multiple CPIs, we have successfully identified novel lead compounds for two pharmaceutically important protein families, G-protein-coupled receptors and protein kinases. These novel compounds were not identified by existing computational ligand-screening methods in comparative studies. The results of this study indicate that data derived from chemical genomics can be highly useful for exploring chemical space, and this systems biology perspective could accelerate drug discovery processes.
    Molecular Systems Biology 03/2011; 7:472. · 11.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Free fatty acids (FFAs) are not only essential nutrient components, but they also function as signaling molecules in various physiological processes. In the progression of genomic analysis, many orphan G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are found. Recently, GPCRs deorphanizing strategy successfully identified multiple receptors for FFAs. In these FFA receptors (FFARs), GPR40 (FFAR1) and GPR120 are activated by medium- to long- chain FFAs. GPR40 is expressed mainly in pancreatic β-cell and mediates insulin secretion, whereas GPR120 is expressed abundantly in the intestine and regulates the secretion of cholecystokinin (CCK) and glucagons-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), it promotes insulin secretion. Due to these biological activity, GPR40 and GPR120 are potential drug target for type 2 diabetes and selective ligands have been developed. In this review, we provide recent development in the field and discuss their physiological roles and their potential as drug targets.
    YAKUGAKU ZASSHI 01/2011; 131(12):1683-9. · 0.37 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: GPR120 is a G protein-coupled receptor expressed preferentially in the intestinal tract and adipose tissue, that has been implicated in mediating free fatty acid-stimulated glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) secretion. To develop GPR120-specific agonists, a series of compounds (denoted as NCG compounds) derived from a peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ agonist were synthesized, and their structure-activity relationships as GPR120 agonists were explored. To examine the agonistic activities of these newly synthesized NCG compounds, and of compounds already shown to have GPR120 agonistic activity (grifolic acid and MEDICA16), we conducted docking simulation in a GPR120 homology model that was developed on the basis of a photoactivated model derived from the crystal structure of bovine rhodopsin. We calculated the hydrogen bonding energies between the compounds and the GPR120 model. These energies correlated well with the GPR120 agonistic activity of the compounds (R(2) = 0.73). NCG21, the NCG compound with the lowest calculated hydrogen bonding energy, showed the most potent extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) activation in a cloned GPR120 system. Furthermore, NCG21 potently activated ERK, intracellular calcium responses and GLP-1 secretion in murine enteroendocrine STC-1 cells that express GPR120 endogenously. Moreover, administration of NCG21 into the mouse colon caused an increase in plasma GLP-1 levels. Taken together, our present study showed that a docking simulation using a GPR120 homology model might be useful to predict the agonistic activity of compounds.
    Molecular pharmacology 11/2010; 78(5):804-10. · 4.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Utilizing the human genome database, the recently developed G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) deorphanizing strategy successfully identified multiple receptors of free fatty acids (FFAs). FFAs have been demonstrated to act as ligands of several GPCRs (FFAR1, FFAR2, FFAR3, and GPR120). These fatty acid receptors are proposed to play critical roles in various types of physiological homeostases. FFAR1 and GPR120 are activated by medium- and long-chain FFAs. In contrast, FFAR2 and FFAR3 are activated by short-chain FFAs. It has been elucidated that these four receptors are expressed in the gastrointestinal tract and have many essential roles as sensors of FFA. In this review, we summarize the physiological and pharmacological function of the receptors in the gastrointestinal tract.
    Journal of Pharmacological Sciences 01/2010; 112(1):19-24. · 2.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Free fatty acids (FFAs) have been demonstrated to act as ligands of several G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) (FFAR1, FFAR2, FFAR3, GPR84, and GPR120). These fatty acid receptors are proposed to play critical roles in a variety of types of physiological homeostasis. FFAR1 and GPR120 are activated by medium- and long-chain FFAs. GPR84 is activated by medium-chain, but not long-chain, FFAs. In contrast, FFAR2 and FFAR3 are activated by short-chain FFAs. FFAR1 is expressed mainly in pancreatic beta-cells and mediates insulin secretion, whereas GPR120 is expressed abundantly in the intestine and promotes the secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). FFAR3 is expressed in enteroendocrine cells and regulates host energy balance through effects that are dependent upon the gut microbiota. In this review, we summarize the identification, structure, and pharmacology of these receptors and present an essential overview of the current understanding of their physiological roles.
    Prostaglandins & other lipid mediators 06/2009; 89(3-4):82-8. · 2.42 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: GPR120 and GPR40 are G-protein-coupled receptors whose endogenous ligands are medium- and long-chain free fatty acids, and they are thought to play an important physiological role in insulin release. Despite recent progress in understanding their roles, much still remains unclear about their pharmacology, and few specific ligands for GPR120 and GPR40 besides medium- to long-chain fatty acids have been reported so far. To identify new selective ligands for these receptors, more than 80 natural compounds were screened, together with a reference compound MEDICA16, which is known to activate GPR40, by monitoring the extracellular regulated kinase (ERK) and [Ca(2+)](i) responses in inducible and stable expression cell lines for GPR40 and GPR120, respectively. MEDICA16 selectively activated [Ca(2+)](i) response in GPR40-expressing cells but not in GPR120-expressing cells. Among the natural compounds tested, grifolin derivatives, grifolic acid and grifolic acid methyl ether, promoted ERK and [Ca(2+)](i) responses in GPR120-expressing cells, but not in GPR40-expressing cells, and inhibited the alpha-linolenic acid (LA)-induced ERK and [Ca(2+)](i) responses in GPR120-expressing cells. Interestingly, in accordance with the pharmacological profiles of these compounds, similar profiles of glucagon-like peptide-1 secretion were seen for mouse enteroendocrine cell line, STC-1 cells, which express GPR120 endogenously. Taken together, these studies identified a selective GPR40 agonist and several GPR120 partial agonists. These compounds would be useful probes to further investigate the physiological and pharmacological functions of GPR40 and GPR120.
    Archiv für Experimentelle Pathologie und Pharmakologie 06/2009; 380(3):247-55. · 2.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: GPR120 is a G-protein-coupled receptor whose endogenous ligands have recently been identified as free fatty acids. It has been implicated as playing an important role in the control of lipid and glucose metabolism by regulating the secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1 and cholecystokinin. We have developed an antibody against the extracellular domain of GPR120. The specificity of the antibody was demonstrated by immunoprecipitation, Western blotting, flow cytometry, and immunocytochemistry using GPR120-transfected cells. Immunoreactivity for GPR120 was abundant in the mouse large intestine, lung, and adipose tissue. Furthermore, we found that the expression of GPR120 protein was up-regulated during the adipogenic differentiation of 3T3-L1 cells, which corresponded well with changes in mRNA expression. The anti-GPR120 antibody will be of value for the further study of the function of this nutrient-sensing receptor.
    Archiv für Experimentelle Pathologie und Pharmakologie 02/2009; 379(4):427-34. · 2.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Utilizing the human genome database, the recently developed G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) deorphanizing strategy successfully identified multiple receptors of free fatty acids (FFAs) and is proposed to play a critical role in a variety of physiologic homeostasis mechanisms. GPR40 and GPR120 are activated by medium- and long-chain FFAs, whereas GPR41 and GPR43 are activated by short-chain FFAs. GPR40, which is preferentially expressed in pancreatic beta-cells, mediates insulin secretion. On the other hand, GPR120, which is abundantly expressed in the intestine, functions as a receptor for unsaturated long-chain FFAs and promotes the secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). In this review, we summarize the identification, structure, and pharmacology of the receptors and speculate on the respective physiologic roles that FFA receptor family members may play.
    Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin 11/2008; 31(10):1847-51. · 1.85 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: GPR40 is a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) whose endogenous ligands have recently been identified as medium- and long-chain free fatty acids (FFAs), and it is thought to play an important role in insulin release. Despite recent research efforts, much still remains unclear in our understanding of its pharmacology, mainly because the receptor-ligand interaction has not been analyzed directly. To study the pharmacology of GPR40 in a more direct fashion, we developed a flow cytometry-based binding assay. FLAG-tagged GPR40 protein was expressed in Sf9 cells, solubilized, immobilized on immunomagnetic beads, and labeled with the fluorescent probe C1-BODIPY-C12. Flow cytometry analysis showed that C1-BODIPY-C12 specifically labels a single class of binding site in a saturable and reversible manner with an apparent dissociation constant of approximately 3 microM. The FFAs that activate GPR40 competed with C1-BODIPY-C12 binding; thus, medium- to long-chain FFAs could compete, whereas short-chain FFAs and methyl linoleate had no inhibitory effect. Furthermore, ligands that are known to activate GPR40 competed for binding in a concentration-dependent manner. All the ligands that inhibited the binding promoted phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-1/2 in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells that expressed GPR40 and [Ca(2+)](i) responses in mouse insulinoma (MIN6) cells that natively express GPR40; however, pioglitazone, a thiazolidinedione that failed to compete for the binding, did not activate ERK or [Ca(2+)](i) response. This study showed that a flow cytometry-based binding assay can successfully identify direct interactions between GPR40 and its ligands. This approach would be of value in studying the pharmacology of GPCRs.
    Molecular pharmacology 11/2008; 75(1):85-91. · 4.53 Impact Factor