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Agonists activating hypothetical receptors.
An agonist is a chemical that binds to a receptor and activates the receptor to produce a biological response. In contrast, an antagonist blocks the action of the agonist, while an inverse agonist causes an action opposite to that of the agonist.
From the Greek (ag?nist?s), contestant; champion; rival < ? (ag?n), contest, combat; exertion, struggle < (ag?), I lead, lead towards, conduct; drive
Full agonists bind to and activate a receptor with the maximum response that an agonist can elicit at the receptor. One example of a drug that can act as a full agonist is isoproterenol, which mimics the action of adrenaline at ? adrenoreceptors. Another example is morphine, which mimics the actions of endorphins at ?-opioid receptors throughout the central nervous system. However, a drug can act as a full agonist in some tissues and as a partial agonist in other tissues, depending upon the relative numbers of receptors and differences in receptor coupling.[medical ]
An inverse agonist is an agent that binds to the same receptor binding-site as an agonist for that receptor and inhibits the constitutive activity of the receptor. Inverse agonists exert the opposite pharmacological effect of a receptor agonist, not merely an absence of the agonist effect as seen with an antagonist. An example is the cannabinoid inverse agonist rimonabant.
A superagonist is a term used by some to identify a compound that is capable of producing a greater response than the endogenous agonist for the target receptor. It might be argued that the endogenous agonist is simply a partial agonist in that tissue.
An irreversible agonist is a type of agonist that binds permanently to a receptor through the formation of covalent bonds. A few of these have been described, including Paracetamol.
A biased agonist is an agent that binds to a receptor without affecting the same signal transduction pathway. Oliceridine is a µ-opioid receptor agonist that has been described to be functionally selective towards G protein and away from ?-arrestin2 pathways.
Potency is the amount of agonist needed to elicit a desired response. The potency of an agonist is inversely related to its EC50 value. The EC50 can be measured for a given agonist by determining the concentration of agonist needed to elicit half of the maximum biological response of the agonist. The EC50 value is useful for comparing the potency of drugs with similar efficacies producing physiologically similar effects. The smaller the EC50 value, the greater the potency of the agonist, the lower the concentration of drug that is required to elicit the maximum biological response.
When a drug is used therapeutically, it is important to understand the margin of safety that exists between the dose needed for the desired effect and the dose that produces unwanted and possibly dangerous side-effects (measured by the TD50, the dose that produces toxicity in 50% of individuals). This relationship, termed the therapeutic index, is defined as the ratio TD50:ED50. In general, the narrower this margin, the more likely it is that the drug will produce unwanted effects. The therapeutic index emphasizes the importance of the margin of safety, as distinct from the potency, in determining the usefulness of a drug.
^Urban JD, Clarke WP, von Zastrow M, Nichols DE, Kobilka B, Weinstein H, et al. (January 2007). "Functional selectivity and classical concepts of quantitative pharmacology". J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 320 (1): 1-13. doi:10.1124/jpet.106.104463. PMID16803859. S2CID447937.