Background: In-vitro studies have suggested that polymorphisms of the beta 2-adrenoceptor may influence the desensitisation induced by beta 2-agonists. We investigated the influence of beta 2-AR polymorphism on the development of bronchodilator desensitisation in asthma patients.
Methods: We carried out an analysis of 22 moderately severe stable asthmatics, mean age 38 years, FEV1 63% of predicted and FEF25-75 38% of predicted, who received a median inhaled corticosteroid dose of 1000 micrograms/day. Patients were randomly assigned inhaled placebo or inhaled formoterol 24 micrograms bid for 4 weeks each in a crossover study. Bronchodilator dose-response curves were made at the end of each treatment period by use of cumulative doses of formoterol (6-108 micrograms) with FEV1 and FEF25-75 measured 30 min after each dose, and up to 6 h after the last dose. We calculated the degree of bronchodilator desensitisation by comparing the dose-response (for maximum and 6 h) after placebo with that after formoterol, and expressed this degree as a percentage of placebo response. Patients were divided into groups according to genotype at codon 16: homozygous Arg 16 (n = 4), heterozygous Arg 16/Gly 16 (n = 8), and homozygous Gly 16 (n = 10). At codon 27: homozygous Gln 27 (n = 5), heterozygous Gln 27/Glu 27 (n = 11), and homozygous Glu 27 (n = 6).
Findings: We found a significantly (p < 0.05) greater degree of bronchodilator desensitisation with homozygous Gly 16 than with homozygous Arg 16 for maximal FEV1 response: -8% (Arg 16) vs 46% (Gly 16); and for maximal FEF25-75 response: -32% (Arg 16) vs 74% (Gly 16; 95% CI 15-92% and 49-164%, respectively). Bronchodilator responses at 6 h were also significantly (p < 0.05) different for FEV1 and FEF25-75 when Arg 16 and Gly 16 were compared and values for heterozygous Arg 16/Gly 16 were intermediate. There was significantly greater desensitisation with Glu 27 than with Gln 27 for maximal FEF25-75 response: -7% (Gln 27) vs 68% (Glu 27), p = 0.05; and for 6 h FEF25-75 response: 43% (Gln 27) vs 93% (Glu 27), p < 0.05 (95% CI 2-147% and 5-94%, respectively). All patients who were homozygous Glu 27 were also homozygous Gly 16.
Interpretation: We have found preliminary evidence that beta 2-adrenoceptor polymorphism is associated with altered beta 2-adrenoceptor expression in asthma patients. The homozygous Gly-16 form was significantly more prone to bronchodilator desensitisation than Arg 16, with the influence of Gly 16 dominating over any putative protective effects of Glu 27.