A three-parameter two-state model of receptor function that incorporates affinity, efficacy, and signal amplification

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10 Scopus citations


A generalized model of receptor function is proposed that relies on the essential assumptions of the minimal two-state receptor theory (i.e., ligand binding followed by receptor activation), but uses a different parametrization and allows nonlinear response (transduction) for possible signal amplification. For the most general case, three parameters are used: Kd, the classic equilibrium dissociation constant to characterize binding affinity; ε, an intrinsic efficacy to characterize the ability of the bound ligand to activate the receptor (ranging from 0 for an antagonist to 1 for a full agonist); and γ, a gain (amplification) parameter to characterize the nonlinearity of postactivation signal transduction (ranging from 1 for no amplification to infinity). The obtained equation, (Formula presented.), resembles that of the operational (Black and Leff) or minimal two-state (del Castillo-Katz) models, (Formula presented.), with εγ playing a role somewhat similar to that of the τ efficacy parameter of those models, but has several advantages. Its parameters are more intuitive as they are conceptually clearly related to the different steps of binding, activation, and signal transduction (amplification), and they are also better suited for optimization by nonlinear regression. It allows fitting of complex data where receptor binding and response are measured separately and the fractional occupancy and response are mismatched. Unlike the previous models, it is a true generalized model as simplified forms can be reproduced with special cases of its parameters. Such simplified forms can be used on their own to characterize partial agonism, competing partial and full agonists, or signal amplification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00311
JournalPharmacology Research and Perspectives
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Affinity
  • Clark equation
  • efficacy
  • free energy
  • ligand binding
  • operational model
  • partial agonism
  • receptor theory
  • two-state model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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