Polypharmacology or promiscuity? Structural interactions of resveratrol with its bandwagon of targets

Uzma Saqib, Tanya T. Kelley, Siva K. Panguluri, Dongfang Liu, Rajkumar Savai, Mirza S. Baig, Stephan C. Schürer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Resveratrol (3, 4′, 5-trihydroxy-trans-stilbene) is a natural phytoalexin found in grapes and has long been thought to be the answer to the “French Paradox.” There is no shortage of preclinical and clinical studies investigating the broad therapeutic activity of resveratrol. However, in spite of many comprehensive reviews published on the bioactivity of resveratrol, there has yet to be a report focused on the variety and complexity of its structural binding properties, and its multi-targeted role. An improved understanding of disease mechanisms at the systems level has enabled targeted polypharmacology to mature into a rational drug discovery approach. Unlike traditional hit-to-lead campaigns that typically optimize activity and selectivity for a single target, polypharmacological drugs aim to selectively target multiple proteins, while avoiding critical off target interactions. This strategy bears promise of improved efficacy and reduced clinical attrition. This review seeks to investigate whether the bioactivity of resveratrol is due to a polypharmacological effect or promiscuity of the phenolic small molecule by examining the modes of binding with its diverse collection of protein targets. We focused on annotated targets, identified via the ChEMBL database, and matched these targets to a representative structure deposited in the Protein Data Bank (PDB), as crystal structures are most informative in understanding modes of binding at the atomic level. We discuss the structural aspects of resveratrol itself that permits binding to multiple proteins in various signaling pathways. Furthermore, we suggest that resveratrol’s bioactivity is a result of scaffold promiscuity rather than polypharmacology, and the variety of binding modes across targets display little similarity in the pattern of target interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1201
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - Oct 24 2018


  • Polypharmacology
  • Protein targets
  • Receptor
  • Repurposing
  • Resveratrol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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