In-cell nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is a method to provide the structural information of a target at an atomic level under physiological conditions and a full view of the conformational changes of a protein caused by ligand binding, post-translational modifications or protein–protein interactions in living cells. Previous in-cell NMR studies have focused on proteins that were overexpressed in bacterial cells and isotopically labeled proteins injected into oocytes of Xenopus laevis or delivered into human cells. Applications of in-cell NMR in probing protein modifications, conformational changes and ligand bindings have been carried out in mammalian cells by monitoring isotopically labeled proteins overexpressed in living cells. The available protocols and successful examples encourage wide applications of this technique in different fields such as drug discovery. Despite the challenges in this method, progress has been made in recent years. In this review, applications of in-cell NMR are summarized. The successful applications of this method in mammalian and bacterial cells make it feasible to play important roles in drug discovery, especially in the step of target engagement.