Background: Clenbuterol, a beta2-adrenergic receptor agonist, is used therapeutically to treat respiratory conditions in the horse. However, by virtue of its mechanism of action it has been suggested that clenbuterol may also have repartitioning affects in horses and as such the potential to affect performance. Clenbuterol decreases the percent fat and increases fat-free mass following high dose administration in combination with intense exercise in horses. In the current study, microarray analysis and real-time PCR were used to study the temporal effects of low and high dose chronic clenbuterol administration on differential gene expression of several skeletal muscle myosin heavy chains, genes involved in lipid metabolism and the β2-adrenergic receptor. The effect of clenbuterol administration on differential gene expression has not been previously reported in the horse, therefore the primary objective of the current study was to describe clenbuterol-induced temporal changes in gene expression following chronic oral administration of clenbuterol at both high and low doses.
Results: Steady state clenbuterol concentrations were achieved at approximately 50 h post administration of the first dose for the low dose regimen and at approximately 18-19 days (10 days post administration of 3.2 μg/kg) for the escalating dosing regimen. Following chronic administration of the low dose (0.8 μg/kg BID) of clenbuterol, a total of 114 genes were differentially expressed, however, none of these changes were found to be significant following FDR adjustment of the p-values. A total of 7,093 genes were differentially expressed with 3,623 genes up regulated and 3,470 genes down regulated following chronic high dose administration. Of the genes selected for further study by real-time PCR, down-regulation of genes encoding myosin heavy chains 2 and 7, steroyl CoA desaturase and the β2-adrenergic receptor were noted. For most genes, expression levels returned towards baseline levels following cessation of drug administration.
Conclusion: This study showed no evidence of modified gene expression following chronic low dose administration of clenbuterol to horses. However, following chronic administration of high doses of clenbuterol alterations were noted in transcripts encoding various myosin heavy chains, lipid metabolizing enzymes and the β2-adrenergic receptor.
Keywords: Clenbuterol; Gene expression; Horse; Microarray; TLDA; β2 agonist.