, Volume 23, Issue 5, pp 403-409

In vitro and in vivo down-regulation of human plateletα 2 -adrenoceptors by clonidine

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The effect of clonidine on the number ofα 2-adrenoceptors in human platelet membranes, determined by3H-yohimbine binding, was investigatedin vitro andin vivo. Incubation of platelet membranes with clonidine (1–100 µM) for 16 h at 25 °C led to a concentration-dependent decrease in the number of3H-yohimbine binding sites of 10–25%; the affinity of3H-yohimbine to the sites was not changed (KD approximately 3–4 nM). In such “desensitized” membranes, inhibition of3H-yohimbine binding by clonidine resulted in steep, monophasic displacement curves, which in comparison to the curves from control membranes (IC50 for clonidine 90 nM), were shifted to the right (IC50: 321 nM) and were not affected by 10−4M guanosine-5′-triphosphate (GTP).

Treatment of 3 hypertensive patients with clonidine (3×150 µg/d for 7 days) reduced blood pressure and heart rate. Simultaneously, both3H-yohimbine binding sites on platelet membranes and plasma catecholamine levels decreased within three days and remained at a reduced level during treatment. After abrupt cessation of clonidine treatment, blood pressure, heart rate and plasma catecholamines rapidly increased, reaching values after two days similar to or higher than those before treatment.3H-yohimbine binding sites, however, initially decreased further before returning to control values. In platelet membranes derived from hypertensive patients treated with clonidine for at least three weeks, GTP (10−4M) had no influence on inhibition of3H-yohimbine binding by (—)-adrenaline and clonidine. It is concluded that clonidine desensitizesα 2-adrenoceptors in human platelet membranesin vitro andin vivo. An important step in the desensitization process is the uncoupling of receptor occupancy by agonists and adenylate cyclase activity, as indicated by loss of the regulatory activity of GTP on desensitized membranes. The clonidine withdrawal syndrome may be caused by enhanced release of endogenous catecholamines not adequately regulated by presynapticα 2-adrenoceptors, which have become subsensitive after chronic clonidine treatment.