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Metabolism. 1992 Nov;41(11):1233-41.

Potentiation of the thermogenic antiobesity effects of ephedrine by dietary methylxanthines: adenosine antagonism or phosphodiesterase inhibition?

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Department of Physiology, University of Geneva, Switzerland.


Current concepts about the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effects of dietary methylxanthines (caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine) favor their actions as antagonists of adenosine receptors, and attribute their other possible modes of action, namely those associated with translocation of intracellular calcium, inhibition of phosphodiesterase enzyme (PDE) activity, or the release of catecholamines, to high (near-toxic) doses. From studies measuring the respiration rate of brown adipose tissue (BAT), evidence is provided here that at concentrations compatible with therapeutic doses, the ability of methylxanthines (25 to 50 mumol/L) to potentiate the thermogenic effect of the sympathomimetic drug, ephedrine (0.25 mumol/L), particularly under conditions of caloric restriction, involves a minor contribution of adenosine antagonism, but could mainly be explained by the inhibition of PDE activity. In view of current interest in the pharmacological stimulation of metabolic rate to assist the management of obesity with low-calorie regimens, the targeting of PDE activity is therefore a rational approach in the search for drugs that could potentiate sympathomimetic stimulation of metabolic rate.

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