Role of beta-adrenoceptor signaling in skeletal muscle: implications for muscle wasting and disease

Physiol Rev. 2008 Apr;88(2):729-67. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00028.2007.


The importance of beta-adrenergic signaling in the heart has been well documented, but it is only more recently that we have begun to understand the importance of this signaling pathway in skeletal muscle. There is considerable evidence regarding the stimulation of the beta-adrenergic system with beta-adrenoceptor agonists (beta-agonists). Although traditionally used for treating bronchospasm, it became apparent that some beta-agonists could increase skeletal muscle mass and decrease body fat. These so-called "repartitioning effects" proved desirable for the livestock industry trying to improve feed efficiency and meat quality. Studying beta-agonist effects on skeletal muscle has identified potential therapeutic applications for muscle wasting conditions such as sarcopenia, cancer cachexia, denervation, and neuromuscular diseases, aiming to attenuate (or potentially reverse) the muscle wasting and associated muscle weakness, and to enhance muscle growth and repair after injury. Some undesirable cardiovascular side effects of beta-agonists have so far limited their therapeutic potential. This review describes the physiological significance of beta-adrenergic signaling in skeletal muscle and examines the effects of beta-agonists on skeletal muscle structure and function. In addition, we examine the proposed beneficial effects of beta-agonist administration on skeletal muscle along with some of the less desirable cardiovascular effects. Understanding beta-adrenergic signaling in skeletal muscle is important for identifying new therapeutic targets and identifying novel approaches to attenuate the muscle wasting concomitant with many diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / metabolism
  • Wasting Syndrome / drug therapy*


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta