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From the 13 January 1997 issue of Smart Drug News [v5n6]. Copyright (c) 1997. All rights reserved.
If an substrate binds to an enzyme, what binds to a receptor?
When scientists learned that enzymes could change chemicals, they created a new term to specify the chemical that is changed. They called it a substrate the chemical acted upon. The enzyme binds its substrate and an active site initiates the chemical change in the substrate. Later, scientists realized that there were non-enzymes that bound chemicals identically to enzymes, but that did not change their bound chemical. Instead, these non-enzymes reacted to the chemical in some way to initiate a biological process. The scientists then named these non-enzymes receptors to distinguish them from enzymes, but they failed to designate a new term for the substances-that-are-not-changed that fit these receptors. So scientists made do with drug, a misleading-at-best term by its accepted (and legal) definitions. In this article, we have used the word drug reluctantly out of necessity. This is an unresolved problem with our technical language, not an attempt to imply any intrinsic pharmaceutical or therapeutic character to the receptor-drug interaction. SWF