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Am Rev Respir Dis. 1990 Mar;141(3 Pt 2):S141-4.

Receptors on airway gland cells.

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Department of Anatomy, Cardiovascular Research Institute, Veterans Administration Medical Center, University of California, San Francisco.


Airway submucosal glands are by volume the most important source of macromolecules in airway secretions. These secretions, containing gel-forming mucins, antibacterial proteins, and antiproteases, comprise the major defensive barrier protecting the host against airborne pathogens. The identification of the mechanisms regulating secretion from the submucosal glands is key to understanding the genesis of this barrier and how it is altered by disease processes. Using a variety of methods, we and others have identified on the gland cells of several species receptors specific for ACh, norepinephrine, substance P, VIP, PGE1, PGE2, PGA1, PGD2, histamine and bradykinin. These receptors all participate in modulating the secretory activity of the airway submucosal glands. Studies of homogeneous cultures of bovine airway serous cells have yielded detailed information regarding the beta-adrenergic receptor on these cells. Using radioligand binding techniques, we found evidence for the presence of a single high affinity beta receptor of beta-2 subtype. Occupancy of this receptor by isoproterenol causes an elevation in the concentration of intracellular cAMP, which in turn stimulates the phosphorylation of a subset of cytoplasmic and membrane proteins. Based on the kinetics and pharmacology of these effects, it is likely that cAMP functions as a second messenger in the serous cell secretory pathway, probably acting through protein kinases. Current efforts are directed at identification of those phosphoproteins whose phosphorylation and dephosphorylation times are consistent with their possible roles in secretion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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