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Mol Pharmacol. 1994 Mar;45(3):490-9.

Inverse agonist activity of beta-adrenergic antagonists.

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Département de biochimie, Université de Montréal, Canada.


Agonist-independent properties of the human beta 2-adrenergic receptor (beta 2AR) were studied using the baculovirus expression system in Sf9 cells. In the absence of agonist but in the presence of GTP, membranes from cells expressing the beta 2AR exhibited higher levels of cAMP production than did membranes from uninfected cells or from cells infected with wild-type baculovirus. The increase in cAMP production was proportional to the number of beta 2AR expressed, up to 40 pmol/mg of membrane protein, and it could be inhibited in a dose-dependent manner by beta AR antagonists. The increase and its reversal both were independent of the possible presence of contaminating catecholamines in the culture medium and thus appear to reflect spontaneous beta 2AR activity and direct antagonist-receptor interactions, respectively. The maximal level of inhibition varied among the beta AR ligands tested, to yield the following rank order of "inverse efficacy"; timolol > or = propranolol > alprenolol > or = pindolol > labetalol > dichloroisoproterenol. The same rank order was observed using membranes prepared from Chinese hamster fibroblasts expressing beta 2AR. The effect of timolol was partly blocked by labetalol and dichloroisoproterenol, in an apparently competitive manner. The intracellular cAMP content of Sf9 cells cultured in serum-free medium was also increased by the expression of beta 2AR, and that increase was reversed by timolol and propranolol, consistent with observations in membrane preparations. The properties revealed by the expression of the beta 2AR in Sf9 cells suggest two agonist-independent traits of G protein-linked receptors, i.e., 1) that unliganded receptors are able to activate G proteins both in membrane preparations and in whole cells and 2) that antagonists may mediate their effects not only by preventing the binding of agonists but also by decreasing the propensity of the receptor to assume an active state.

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