Exposure of beta-adrenergic receptors (BAR) to agonists often leads to a rapid loss of receptor responsiveness. The proposed mechanisms of such rapid receptor desensitization include receptor phosphorylation by either cAMP-dependent protein kinase or the specific beta-adrenergic receptor kinase (BARK), leading to functional uncoupling from adenylyl cyclase and sequestration of the receptors away from the cell surface. To evaluate the physiological role of such mechanisms, we have investigated whether rapid regulation of BAR occurs in the neonatal rat liver immediately after birth, a physiological situation characterized by a dramatic but transient increase in plasma catecholamines. We have detected a rapid, transient uncoupling of liver plasma membrane BARs from adenylyl cyclase (corresponding to a desensitization of approximately 45%) within the first minutes of extrauterine life, followed by a transient sequestration of approximately 40% of the BARs away from the plasma membrane. In agreement with such pattern of desensitization, we have detected (by enzymatic and immunological assays) rapid changes in BARK specific activity in different neonatal rat liver subcellular fractions that take place within the same time frame of BAR uncoupling and sequestration. Our results provide new evidence on the potential role of BAR desensitization mechanisms in vivo and suggest that they are involved in modulating catecholamines actions at the moment of birth. Furthermore, our data indicate that in addition to its suggested role as a rapid modulator of adrenergic receptor function at synapse, rapid BARK-mediated receptor regulation may have functional relevance in other tissues in response to high circulating or local levels of agonists.
I García-Higuera, F Mayor Jr