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J Biol Chem. 1992 Feb 15;267(5):3530-8.

Ligand-regulated internalization and recycling of human beta 2-adrenergic receptors between the plasma membrane and endosomes containing transferrin receptors.

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  • 1Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford Medical Center, California 94305.


Agonist-regulated redistribution of human beta 2-adrenergic receptors was examined in 293 cells. A specific antiserum recognizing the carboxyl-terminal hydrophilic domain of the receptor was developed, characterized, and used for immunocytochemical localization of receptors in fixed cells by conventional fluorescence and confocal fluorescence microscopy. The beta-adrenergic agonist isoproterenol induced redistribution of receptors from the surface of cells into small (less than 1 micron diameter) punctuate accumulations which were detected in cells within 2 min of agonist addition. The time course of receptor redistribution paralleled that of receptor sequestration measured by ligand binding, and receptor redistribution was reversible in the presence of the beta-adrenergic antagonist alprenolol. Optical sections imaged through cells by confocal microscopy localized receptor accumulations within the cytoplasm. To address the question of receptor internalization further, a mutant receptor possessing an engineered antigenic epitope in the amino-terminal hydrophilic domain was constructed, transfected into cells, and localized using both a monoclonal antibody recognizing the epitope tag (receptor ectodomain) and an antiserum recognizing the carboxyl terminus (receptor endodomain). In untreated cells most receptor antigen was detected at the cell surface, as assessed by accessibility to ectodomain antibodies in unpermeabilized specimens. In isoproterenol-treated cells, however, little receptor antigen was detected at the cell surface. Punctate receptor accumulations present in isoproterenol-treated cells were labeled by antibodies only following permeabilization of cells, as expected if these receptor accumulations were intracellular. Finally, internalized beta-adrenergic receptors colocalized with transferrin receptors, which are markers of endosomal membranes. These data provide several lines of evidence establishing that beta-adrenergic receptors undergo ligand-regulated internalization, they suggest that internalized receptors may be recycled back to the cell surface, and they provide the first direct indication that these processes involve the same endosomal membrane system passaged by constitutively recycling receptors.

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