Biochemistry Online: An Approach Based on Chemical Logic

Biochemistry Online





Learning Goals/Objectives for Chapter 6C:  After class and this reading, students will be able to

  • differentiate among competitive, uncompetitive, and mixed inhibition of enzymes by reversible, noncovalent inhibitors by writing coupled chemical equilibria equations and drawing cartoons showing molecular interactions among, E, S, and I;
  • using LeChatelier's principle and coupled chemical equilibria equations, draw double reciprocal (Lineweaver-Burk plots) and semilog plots for enzyme catalyzed reactions in the presence of different fixed concentrations of inhibitors and activators of enzyme
  • define KIS and KII for competitive, uncompetitive, and mixed inhibition from coupled chemical equilibria and double reciprocal plots;
  • differentiate between apparent and actual dissociations constants constants of an inhibitor and enzyme from double reciprocal plots and equations initial rate mathematical equations;
  • define agonist, partial agonist, antagonist, and mixed (noncompetitive antagonists) from analogy to enzymes and their inhibitors;
  • describe different ways that pH changes could affect the activity of an enzyme and suggest how each could affect Km and kcat. 

C6.  Agonist and Antagonist of Ligand Binding to Receptors - An Extension

The analysis of competitive, uncompetitive and noncompetitive inhibitors of enzymes can now be extended to understand how the activity of membrane receptors are affected by the binding of drugs.  When receptors bind their natural target ligands (hormones, neurotransmitters), a biological effect is elicited.  This usually involves a shape change in the receptor, a transmembrane protein, which activates intracellular activities.  The bound receptor usually does not directly express biological activity, but initiates a cascade of events which leads to expression of intracellular activity.  In some cases, however, the occupied receptor actually expresses biological activity itself.  For example, the bound receptor can acquire  enzymatic activity, or become an active ion channel. 

Drugs targeted to membrane receptors can have a variety of effects.  They may elicit the same biological effects as the natural ligand.  If so, they are called agonists.  Conversely they may inhibit the biological activity of the receptor.  If so they called antagonists


An agonist is a mimetic of the natural ligand and produces a similar biological effect as the natural ligand when it binds to the receptor.  It binds at the same binding site, and leads, in the absence of the natural ligand, to either a full or partial response.  In the latter case, it is called a partial agonist.  The figure below shows the action of ligand, agonist, and partial agonist. 

There is another kind of agonist, given the bizarre name inverse agonist.  This term only makes sense when applied to a receptor that has a basal (or constitutive) activity in the absence of a bound ligand.  If either the natural ligand or an agonist binds to the receptor site, the basal activity is increased.  If however, an inverse agonists binds, the activity is decreased.   An example of an inverse agonist (which we will discuss later) is the binding of the drug Ro15-4513 to the GABA receptor, which also binds benzodiazepines such as valium.  When occupied by its natural ligand, GABA, the protein receptor is "activated" to become a channel allowing the inward flow of Cl- into a neural cell, inhibiting neuron activation.  Valium potentiates the effect of GABA, which is enhanced even further in the presence of ethanol.    Ro15-4513 binds to the benzodiazepine site, which leads to the opposite effect of valium, the inhibition of the receptor bound activity - a chloride channel. 

 Figure: Agonist and Partial Agonists



As there name implies, antagonist inhibit the effects of the natural ligand (hormone, neurotransmitter), agonist, partial agonist, and even inverse agonists.  We can think of them as inhibitors of receptor activity, much as we considered in the sections above inhibitors of enzyme activity.  As such, there can be different types of antagonists.  These include:

Figure:  Antagonists: Competitive and Noncompetitive (Mixed)


Return to Chapter 6C:  Enzyme Inhibition Sections

Return to Biochemistry Online Table of Contents

Archived version of full Chapter 6C:  Enzyme Inhibition

Creative Commons License
Biochemistry Online by Henry Jakubowski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.