The development of safe and effective drugs relies on the discovery of selective ligands. Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) G protein-coupled receptors are therapeutic targets for CNS disorders but are also associated with adverse drug effects. The determination of crystal structures for the 5-HT1B and 5-HT2B receptors provided an opportunity to identify subtype selective ligands using structure-based methods. From docking screens of 1.3 million compounds, 22 molecules were predicted to be selective for the 5-HT1B receptor over the 5-HT2B subtype, a requirement for safe serotonergic drugs. Nine compounds were experimentally verified as 5-HT1B-selective ligands, with up to 300-fold higher affinities for this subtype. Three of the ligands were agonists of the G protein pathway. Analysis of state-of-the-art homology models of the two 5-HT receptors revealed that the crystal structures were critical for predicting selective ligands. Our results demonstrate that structure-based screening can guide the discovery of ligands with specific selectivity profiles.

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