The β-adrenergic receptor (β-AR) plays an important role in regulating a variety of cell and organ functions in different animal species and is an important target in asthma pathogenesis and therapy. The β-AR expression and function in equine bronchial epithelial cells (EBEC) were not known but innervation and significant decrease in receptor level were reported in the equine bronchial tissues from asthmatic horses. I-iodocyanopindolol (ICYP) binding studies were undertaken in primary freshly isolated and cultured EBEC to identify the presence of the β-ARs. The receptor distribution was assessed using subtype-selective β-AR antagonists (ICI 118 551 (β) and CGP 20712A (β). The β-AR function was confirmed by measuring the agonist-induced intracellular cAMP accumulation in freshly isolated and cultured EBEC. In both freshly isolated and cultured EBEC, the specific ICYP binding was saturable and of high affinity. The maximal receptor density (B) was 9763 ± 140 binding sites/cell (mean ± SEM, n = 7) and 10575 ± 194 binding sites/cell (mean ± SEM, n = 5) in freshly isolated and cultured EBEC, respectively. The receptor affinity to the ligand (K) was also not different between the two cell conditions. ICI 118.551 displaced ICYP with 25 000-fold higher affinity than CGP 20712A. Moreover, in both fresh isolated and cultured EBEC, cAMP-accumulation was stimulated with a rank-order of potency of isoproterenol > adrenaline > noradrenaline. These results highlight the β-AR to be a key subtype in both freshly isolated and cultured primary EBEC.
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