Molecular mechanisms of beta-adrenergic receptor desensitization

Adv Exp Med Biol. 1987;221:253-73. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4684-7618-7_19.


Multiple mechanisms seem to be involved in regulating the responsiveness of hormone receptor-coupled adenylate cyclase systems. These mechanisms at least involve the receptors and nucleotide regulatory proteins. With the recent development of methods for purifying the catalytic unit of the enzyme it will be possible to assess whether it is also a locus for such regulatory phenomena. At least two major pathways of receptor regulation have been uncovered. Homologous desensitization (Fig. 9) involves the uncoupling and translocation of the receptors out of their normal plasma membrane environment. This process sequesters the receptors away from their effector, the regulatory and catalytic components of adenylate cyclase. The site of receptor sequestration is unclear and might lie within the plasma membrane or within the cell. The sequestered receptors can recycle to the cell surface or become down-regulated, perhaps being destroyed within the cell. Phosphorylation of the receptors through a beta-adrenergic receptor kinase appears to be associated with homologous desensitization. This phosphorylation event may serve either to uncouple functionally the receptors or to trigger their sequestration from the cell surface or both. In heterologous desensitization (Fig. 10), receptor function is regulated by phosphorylation in the absence of receptor sequestration or down-regulation. This covalent modification serves to functionally uncouple the receptors, that is, to impair their interactions with the guanine nucleotide regulatory proteins. Several protein kinases seem to be capable of promoting phosphorylation of the receptors including the cAMP-dependent kinase and protein kinase C. In addition to the receptor modification, heterologous desensitization seems to be associated with functional modifications (phosphorylation?) at the level of nucleotide regulatory proteins (Ns and Ni), (Fig. 10). Further studies of the mechanisms of desensitization of adenylate cyclase-coupled receptors are thus likely to help elucidate modes of regulation of a wide variety of receptor-coupled functions in diverse types of cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenylyl Cyclases / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Homeostasis
  • Models, Biological
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / physiology*


  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta
  • Protein Kinases
  • Adenylyl Cyclases