, Volume 170, Issue 3, pp 163–180 | Cite as

Formoterol, fenoterol, and salbutamol as partial agonists for relaxation of maximally contracted guinea pig tracheae: Comparison of relaxation with receptor binding

  • Horst Lemoine
  • Clemens Overlack
  • Armin Köh
  • Heinrich Worth
  • Dietrich Reinhardt


In severe asthma attacks ß2-sympathomimetics lose part of their therapeutic efficiency. To elucidate this loss of efficiency in an experimental model we compared the relaxant potency of salbutamol (SAL), fenoterol (FEN), formoterol (FOR), and (−)-isoprenaline (ISO) in guinea pig tracheae partially and maximally precontracted by 0.1 and 60 μol/L carbachol, respectively. In partially precontracted tracheae the ß2-sympathomimetics exerted maximum relaxation in comparison with ISO and low EC50s (nmol/L) for relaxation (SAL, 20; FEN, 5.6; FOR, 0.28; and ISO, 2.5). In maximally precontracted tracheae, however, the ß2-sympathomimetics were only partial agonists for relaxation with reduced intrinsic activities (%) in comparison to ISO (SAL, 59%; FEN, 61%; FOR, 76%) and significantly increased EC50s (nmol/L) for relaxation (SAL, 130; FEN, 57; FOR, 3.0; ISO, 37). To investigate if the high relaxant potency of FOR is correlated with a higher binding affinity and/or a higher intrinsic activity for adenylate cyclase stimulation than for FEN and SAL, we performed experiments in receptor membranes from guinea pig lung. Binding competition of SAL, FEN, and FOR with [3H]ICI 118,551 for lung ß2-adrenoceptors yielded dissociation constants (KD) of 320 (SAL), 120 (FEN), and 7.6 (FOR) nmol/L, which exhibited the same ranking as EC50s for relaxation. Concentrations of SAL, FEN, and FOR equivalent to 100 KD of the respective dissociation constants stimulated ß2-adrenoceptor-coupled adenylate cyclase with different intrinsic activities (%) incomparison to ISO (SAL, 61%; FEN, 63%; FOR, 89%) matching intrinsic activities for relaxation. From these experiments it may be concluded that FOR might improve drug therapy of severe asthma not only due to its long mode of action discovered in clinical studies but also due to its high intrinsic activity and receptor affinity.

Key words

Tracheal smooth muscle ß2-Sympathomimetics Partial agonism Functional antagonism Radioligand binding 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Horst Lemoine
    • 1
  • Clemens Overlack
    • 1
  • Armin Köh
    • 1
  • Heinrich Worth
    • 2
  • Dietrich Reinhardt
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Lasermedicine, Molecular Drug Research GroupHeinrich-Heine-UniversitätDüsseldorf 1
  2. 2.Department of Cardiology, Angiology, and PneumologyHeinrich-Heine-UniversitätDüsseldorf 1
  3. 3.Childrens Hospital 2Ludwig-Maximilians-UniversitätMünchen 2Germany

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