Anti-inflammatory effect of beta 2-agonists: inhibition of TNF-alpha release from human mast cells

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1997 Dec;100(6 Pt 1):825-31. doi: 10.1016/s0091-6749(97)70280-x.


Beta 2-agonists inhibit the release of preformed mediators such as histamine and newly synthesized mediators such as prostaglandin D2 from mast cells. However, although mast cells have been identified as an important source of several cytokines including tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), there is no information about their regulation by beta 2-agonists. Thus given the importance of TNF-alpha in inflammation and the widespread use of beta 2-agonists, we investigated the effect of long-acting (salmeterol) and short-acting (salbutamol) beta 2-agonists on the secretion of TNF-alpha from human skin mast cells. Treatment of mast cells with salmeterol or salbutamol (100 nmol/L) inhibited the IgE-dependent release of TNF-alpha (82% and 74%, respectively). Moreover, 2-hour treatment with salmeterol, isoproterenol, or salbutamol inhibited mast cell cytotoxicity against a TNF-alpha-sensitive cell line, WEHI-164, with an IC50 of 71, 50, and 29 nmol/L, respectively. Specificity for beta-adrenergic receptors was shown with propranolol. The inhibitory effect of beta 2-agonists was observed after only 20 minutes of treatment but was lost by 24 hours after removal of salbutamol and isoproterenol (7% and 11% inhibition remaining, respectively). In contrast, the inhibition of TNF-alpha release was increased 1 hour after removal of salmeterol and remained significant 24 hours later. Furthermore, beta 2-agonists did not show tachyphylaxis for the inhibition of TNF-alpha release. Thus selective beta2-agonists demonstrate anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting the release of TNF-alpha from mast cells stimulated through their IgE receptor or by a tumor target cell. This inhibitory effect of beta-agonists may be important in their mode of action in the treatment of allergic diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Albuterol / analogs & derivatives
  • Albuterol / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology*
  • Antibodies, Anti-Idiotypic / pharmacology
  • Cell Separation
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Histamine Release / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Isoproterenol / pharmacology
  • Mast Cells / drug effects*
  • Mast Cells / immunology
  • Mast Cells / metabolism
  • Salmeterol Xinafoate
  • Skin / cytology
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / toxicity


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antibodies, Anti-Idiotypic
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • anti-IgE antibodies
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Salmeterol Xinafoate
  • Isoproterenol
  • Albuterol