Development of 3D-QSAR models for predicting the activities of chemicals to stimulate muscle growth via β 2-adrenoceptor

Toxicol In Vitro. 2021 Dec;77:105251. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2021.105251. Epub 2021 Sep 30.


β2-adrenoceptor (β2AR) agonists can stimulate skeletal muscle growth. Their illegal use in food-producing animals, human athletes and bodybuilders causes adverse health effects. In the present study, we developed 3D-QSAR models for predicting the activity of chemicals which can stimulate skeletal muscle growth through β2AR. The activity of 25 β2AR agonists was measured by β2AR-cAMP response element (CRE) -luciferase (Luc) reporter assay. The 3D-QSAR models were built using comparative molecular field analysis (CoMFA) and comparative molecular similarity indices analysis (CoMSIA). The CoMFA and CoMSIA models displayed high external predictability (R2 0.996 and 0.992, respectively) and good statistical robustness, and revealed that electrostatic effects were the most prominent forces influencing the activity of β2AR agonists. The CoMFA and CoMSIA contour plots provided clues regarding the main chemical features responsible for the activity variations and also resulted in predictions which correlate very well with the observed activity. In vitro study with differentiated myotubes showed that the potency orders of β2AR agonists in activating the β2AR-CRE-Luc reporter and in upregulating CREB target genes related to muscle growth were consistent. These 3D-QSAR models provide tools for predicting the activity of chemicals which might be illegally used in livestock or humans to stimulate skeletal muscle growth.

Keywords: 3D-QSAR models; CRE-luciferase reporter; CoMFA; CoMSIA; Myotube gene expression; β(2)AR agonists.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-2 Receptor Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • HEK293 Cells / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Muscle Development / drug effects*
  • Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2 / drug effects*


  • Adrenergic beta-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2