Effects of glucocorticoids and beta-adrenoceptor agonists on the proliferation of airway smooth muscle

Eur J Pharmacol. 1995 Jan 24;273(1-2):137-43. doi: 10.1016/0014-2999(94)00679-2.


An increase in airway smooth muscle is a characteristic feature of asthma. Because beta-adrenoceptor agonists and corticosteroids are commonly used in the treatment of asthma we have studied the effects of these medicines on the growth of airway smooth muscle. These agents were incubated with bovine airway smooth muscle cells for 40 h for measurement of thymidine incorporation and 64 h for measurement of cell counts. Salbutamol inhibited thymidine incorporation (IC50 = 60 nM) and led to a reduction in cell number (IC50 = 10 nM). At 10 microM there was a 14.6 +/- 2.6% reduction in cell number. Salmeterol also inhibited the growth of the airway smooth muscle cells but the effect did not plateau at 10 microM. At this concentration there was an 89.5 +/- 3.6% reduction in thymidine incorporation and a 44.1 +/- 5.2% reduction in cell number. Cortisol and beclomethasone dipropionate were more potent than salbutamol in inhibiting thymidine incorporation with IC50 values of 5 nM and 0.2 nM respectively. Cortisol 100 nM led to a 16.6 +/- 6.5% reduction and beclomethasone dipropionate 3 nM led to a 17.8 +/- 5.8% reduction in cell number. If similar effects occur in man and in vivo, these medicines could act directly on airway smooth muscle to inhibit the development of hyperplasia.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Albuterol / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Muscle, Smooth / cytology*
  • Muscle, Smooth / drug effects
  • Thymidine / metabolism
  • Trachea / cytology*
  • Trachea / drug effects


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Albuterol
  • Thymidine