Receptors vs. Targets

In pharmacology, we often talk about targets instead of receptors.  Targets are simply the place on the cell or in the body that a drug affects.  This can be a receptor (or receptors), or it can be a general region.  In some cases, like with certain drugs that affect the kidneys and CNS, it is far more helpful to memorize the target than the receptor.

For example, hydrochlorothiazide, a thiazide diuretic, increases urine excretion from the kidneys by blocking sodium reabsorption in the distal convoluted tubule.  This process begins with the blocking of a receptor, but then starts a very long chain of events that culminate in a net effect.  If you know what the distal tubule does, however, and how variations in its contents affect the rest of the body, then you know that a thiazide diuretic…

1.  Is a mild-moderate diuretic

2. Will cause potassium loss

3.  Will lower your blood pressure

So remember to eat your bananas (unless you are taking spironolactone), and go study some physiology!

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