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Circulation. 1994 Sep;90(3):1225-38.

Age-related changes in beta-adrenergic neuroeffector systems in the human heart.

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Division of Cardiology, University of Utah Medical Center, Salt Lake City.



Aging decreases cardiac beta-adrenergic responsiveness in model systems and in humans in vivo. The purpose of this study was to comprehensively evaluate the age-related changes in the beta-receptor-G protein-adenylyl cyclase complex in nonfailing human hearts.


Twenty-six nonfailing explanted human hearts aged 1 to 71 years were obtained from organ donors and subjected to pharmacological investigation of beta-adrenergic neuroeffector systems. When the population was subdivided into the 13 youngest and 13 oldest subjects, total beta-receptor density assessed by maximum [125I]ICYP binding (beta max) was reduced in older hearts by 37% in left ventricles and 31% in right ventricles (both P < .05), and the downregulation was confined to the beta 1 subtype (r = .78 left ventricle beta 1 density versus donor age). Older donor hearts exhibited a 3- to 4-fold rightward shift of ICYP-isoproterenol (ISO) competition curves and demonstrated 43% fewer receptors in a high-affinity agonist binding state (P < .05). Older hearts exhibited decreased adenylyl cyclase stimulation by ISO, by zinterol (beta 2-agonist), and by the G protein-sensitive probes forskolin, Gpp(NH)p, and NaF. In contrast, there was no change in response to manganese, a specific activator of the adenylyl cyclase catalytic subunit. Toxin-catalyzed ADP ribosylation in membranes prepared from older versus younger hearts revealed a 29% to 30% reduction (P < .05) with cholera toxin (Gs) but no difference with pertussis toxin (Gi). The systolic contractile response of isolated right ventricular trabeculae to ISO was decreased by 46%, with a 10-fold increase in ISO EC50 in older relative to younger donor hearts.


There is a profound decrease in cardiac beta-adrenergic responsiveness with aging. This occurs by multiple mechanisms including downregulation and decreased agonist binding of beta 1-receptors, uncoupling of beta 2-receptors, and abnormal G protein-mediated signal transduction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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