Complimentary DNAs for three beta-adrenergic receptors (βARs) were isolated and characterised in the fathead minnow. The encoded proteins of 402 (β(1)AR), 397 (β(2)AR) and 434 (β(3)AR) amino acids were homologous to other vertebrate βARs, and displayed the characteristic seven transmembrane helices of G Protein-coupled receptors. Motifs and amino acids shown to be important for ligand binding were conserved in the fathead minnow receptors. Quantitative RT-PCR revealed the expression of all receptors to be highest in the heart and lowest in the ovary. However, the β(1)AR was the predominant subtype in the heart (70%), and β(3)AR the predominant subtype in the ovary (53%). In the brain, β(1)AR expression was about 200-fold higher than that of β(2)- and β(3)AR, whereas in the liver, β(2)AR expression was about 20-fold and 100-fold higher than β(3)- and β(1)AR expression, respectively. Receptor gene expression was modulated by exposure to propranolol (0.001-1mg/L) for 21 days, but not in a consistent, concentration-related manner. These results show that the fathead minnow has a beta-adrenergic receptor repertoire similar to that of mammals, with the molecular signatures required for ligand binding. An exogenous ligand, the beta-blocker propranolol, is able to alter the expression profile of these receptors, although the functional relevance of such changes remains to be determined. Characterisation of the molecular targets for beta-blockers in fish will aid informed environmental risk assessments of these drugs, which are known to be present in the aquatic environment.
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