Tocolytic therapy with fenoterol induces selective down-regulation of beta-adrenergic receptors in human myometrium

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1997 Apr;82(4):1235-42. doi: 10.1210/jcem.82.4.3885.


Tocolytic therapy with beta-adrenergic receptor agonists is a standard regimen to prevent preterm birth. Agonists exposure of beta-adrenergic receptors causes receptor desensitization in other organs, and this may limit the therapeutic value of beta-adrenergic receptor agonists. To study the effects of prolonged beta-adrenergic agonist treatment in human myometrium, we obtained biopsies during Caesarean section of 14 pregnant patients who had received fenoterol for at least 5 days and 14 untreated pregnant controls. The densities of total beta-adrenergic receptors, which are mainly of the beta 2-subtype as assessed by [125I]iodo-cyanopindolol binding in crude membrane fractions, were more than 50% smaller in women receiving fenoterol, whereas alpha 2-adrenergic receptor densities were similar. Gs and Gi G-protein alpha-subunit densities were unaltered as assessed by Western blotting and pertussis toxin-catalyzed [32P]ADP-ribosylation. beta-Adrenergic receptor kinase (beta ARK) activity, as determined using bovine rhodopsin as the substrate, was the same in the two groups. Adenylyl cyclase activities in the presence of guanine nucleotides, NaF, forskolin, or Mn+2 were also not altered by fenoterol treatment. The messenger RNA (mRNA) concentrations of beta 2-adrenergic receptors, beta ARK-I and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (as a reference), as determined by quantitative PCR, were unaffected by fenoterol treatment. We conclude that tocolysis with fenoterol results in a selective down-regulation of myometrial beta-adrenergic receptors, which is not associated with a reduction in the respective mRNA concentrations or alterations of alpha 2-adrenergic receptors, Gs and Gi alpha-subunits, or beta ARK activity or mRNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Down-Regulation*
  • Female
  • Fenoterol / pharmacology*
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Myometrium / drug effects*
  • Myometrium / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / genetics
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / metabolism
  • Tocolytic Agents / pharmacology*
  • beta-Adrenergic Receptor Kinases


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta
  • Tocolytic Agents
  • Fenoterol
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • beta-Adrenergic Receptor Kinases
  • GTP-Binding Proteins