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J Clin Invest. 1998 Jan 15;101(2):471-8.

Cardiac muscarinic receptors decrease with age. In vitro and in vivo studies.

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Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, D-06097 Halle/Saale, Germany.


The M1 muscarinic receptor antagonist pirenzepine in low doses decreases resting heart rate; this effect declines with age (Poller, U., G. Nedelka, J. Radke, K. Pönicke, and O.-E. Brodde. 1997. J. Am. Coll. Cardiol. 29:187-193). To study possible mechanisms underlying this effect, we assessed (a) in six young (26 yr old) and six older volunteers (61 yr old), pirenzepine effects (0.32 and 0.64 mg intravenous [i.v.] bolus) on isoprenaline-induced heart rate increases; (b) in five heart transplant recipients, pirenzepine effects (0.05-10 mg i.v. bolus) on resting heart rate in the recipient's native and transplanted sinus nodes; and (c) in right atria from 39 patients of different ages (5 d-76 yr) undergoing open heart surgery, M2 muscarinic receptor density (by [3H]N-methyl-scopolamine binding) and adenylyl cyclase activity. (a) Pirenzepine at both doses decreased heart rate in young volunteers significantly more than in older volunteers; (b) pirenzepine (< 1 mg) decreased resting heart rate in the recipient's native but not transplanted sinus node; and (c) M2 receptor density and carbachol-induced inhibition of forskolin-stimulated adenylyl cyclase activity decreased significantly with the age of the patients. We conclude that pirenzepine decreases heart rate via inhibition of presynaptic M1 autoreceptors, thereby releasing endogenous acetylcholine, and that the heart rate-decreasing effect of acetylcholine declines with age because right atrial M2 receptor density and function decrease.

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