Receptor (biochemistry)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A receptor is a molecule found on the surface of a cell, which receives specific chemical signals from neighbouring cells or the wider environment within an organism. These signals tell a cell to do something—for example to divide or die, or to allow certain molecules to enter or exit the cell.

In biochemistry, a receptor is a protein molecule, embedded in either the plasma membrane or the cytoplasm of a cell, to which one or more specific kinds of signaling molecules may attach. A molecule which binds (attaches) to a receptor is called a ligand, and may be a peptide (short protein) or other small molecule, such as a neurotransmitter, a hormone, a pharmaceutical drug, or a toxin. Each kind of receptor can bind only certain ligand shapes. Each cell typically has many receptors, of many different kinds. Simply put, a receptor functions as a keyhole that opens a neural path when the proper ligand is inserted.

Ligand binding stabilizes a certain receptor conformation (the three-dimensional shape of the receptor protein, with no change in sequence). This is often associated with gain of or loss of protein activity, ordinarily leading to some sort of cellular response. However, some ligands (e.g. antagonists) merely block receptors without inducing any response. Ligand-induced changes in receptors result in cellular changes which constitute the biological activity of the ligands. Many functions of the human body are regulated by these receptors responding uniquely to specific molecules like this.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Receptor (biochemistry)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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