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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Phenylpropanolamine constricts mouse and human blood vessels by preferentially activating alpha2-adrenoceptors.

Phenylpropanolamine (dl-norephedrine) was one of the most widely used therapeutic agents to act on the sympathetic nervous system. Because of concerns regarding incidents of stroke, its use as a nasal decongestant was discontinued. Although considered an alpha1-adrenergic agonist, the vascular adrenergic pharmacology of phenylpropanolamine was not fully characterized. Unlike most other circulations, the vasculature of the nasal mucosa is highly enriched with constrictor alpha2-adrenoceptors. Therefore, experiments were performed to determine whether phenylpropanolamine activates vascular alpha2-adrenoceptors. Mouse tail and mesenteric small arteries and human small dermal veins were isolated and analyzed in a perfusion myograph. The selective alpha1-adrenergic agonist phenylephrine caused constriction of tail and mesenteric arteries and human veins. The selective alpha2-adrenergic agonist UK14,304 [5-bromo-N-(4,5-dihydro-1H-imidazol-2-yl)-6-quinoxalinamine] caused constriction in tail arteries and in human veins, but not mesenteric arteries. The lack of constriction to UK14,304 was also observed in endothelium-denuded mesenteric arteries. Phenylpropanolamine constricted both types of artery but was 62-fold more potent in tail arteries. In mesenteric arteries, constriction to phenylpropanolamine was not affected by the selective alpha2-adrenergic antagonist, rauwolscine (10(-7) M) but was abolished by the selective alpha1-adrenergic antagonist, prazosin (3 x 10(-7) M). In contrast, constriction to phenylpropanolamine in tail arteries and in human veins was inhibited by rauwolscine but not prazosin. Therefore, phenylpropanolamine is a preferential alpha2-adrenergic agonist. At low concentrations, it constricts blood vessels that express functional alpha2-adrenoceptors, whereas at much higher concentrations, phenylpropanolamine also activates vascular alpha1-adrenoceptors. This action likely contributed to phenylpropanolamine's therapeutic activity, namely constriction of the nasal vasculature.[1]


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