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J Anim Sci. 2000 Mar;78(3):604-8.

Differential effects of dexamethasone and clenbuterol on rat growth and on beta2-adrenoceptors in lung and skeletal muscle.

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Central Queensland University, Department of Primary Industries, Queensland, Rockhampton, Australia.


Beta-adrenergic agonists increase growth rate, but their efficacy is reduced over time as the number of beta2-adrenoceptors in muscle decreases. Dexamethasone increases beta2-adrenoceptor density in many tissues, but this effect has not been reported in skeletal muscle. In this study, male rats were treated daily for 10 d with either clenbuterol (4 mg/kg of feed), dexamethasone (.2 mg/kg BW, s.c.), or clenbuterol plus dexamethasone. Untreated rats served as controls. Dexamethasone caused a marked suppression of growth rate, which resulted in decreased (P < .001) body weight (-29%), carcass weight (-30%), hind-limb muscles (-22%), omental fat (-22%), and heart weight (-10%). Feed intake was reduced (-26%), but feed conversion efficiency was also impaired (P < .001). Clenbuterol caused a small increase in growth rate (+6%; P < .05), with an increase in leg muscle (+7%; P < .01) and heart mass (+8%; P < .05). Feed efficiency was improved (P < .001) by clenbuterol. Rats given the combined treatment still showed a reduction in growth rate (-81%). Clenbuterol caused only a mild attenuation of the effects of dexamethasone on feed intake, BW, and carcass weight, but reduced the catabolic effect of dexamethasone on hind-limb muscle to only -8%. Clenbuterol caused a slight increase in the affinity beta2-adrenoceptors in lung for binding to the radioligand (-)[125I]iodocyanopindolol. Relative to control values, the density of beta2-adrenoceptors in lung was +31% with dexamethasone treatment, -45% with clenbuterol, and -23% with the combined treatment. Clenbuterol also decreased beta2-adrenoceptors in skeletal muscle (-35%), but so did dexamethasone (-13%), so the effects of the beta-adrenergic agonist were not attenuated through use of the combined treatment (-40%). The results show that the inductive effect of glucocorticoids on beta2-adrenoceptors is tissue-specific and that glucocorticoid treatment is not a useful adjunct to beta-adrenergic agonist treatment in animal production.

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