Alpha-2 adrenoceptors on nerves and muscles of rat uterus.
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To test the hypothesis that functional postsynaptic alpha-2 adrenoceptors exist in rat myometrium, we examined whether specific binding sites for [3H]rauwolscine were present on microsomal membranes from myometrium of nonpregnant, day 16 pregnant and delivering rats and whether an alpha-2 adrenoceptor agonist has functional effects. The myometrium of rats at term undergoes a physiological denervation, confirmed in this study by ultrastructural examination of uterine samples and by [3H]saxitoxin binding studies. Binding sites for rauwolscine of similar Kd (11-15 nM) were present in all groups of myometrium and were localized on plasma membranes. There was no significant change in the density of rauwolscine binding sites in membranes from day 16 animals compared to nonpregnant ones, but a significant fall (38%) from these values at term. Strips of uterine circular or longitudinal muscle from nonpregnant, day-16 or day-22 pregnant rats failed to respond to the selective alpha-2 agonist, BHT-920, in the presence of propranolol; i.e., BHT-920 neither caused contraction nor inhibited contractions induced by oxytocin. BHT-920 did not affect the inhibitory effects of isoproterenol which were antagonized by propranolol. However, it antagonized contractions to norepinephrine in the presence of propranolol with a pKB value of 5.6 to 5.7. These contractions were phentolamine-sensitive. BHT-920 displaced rauwolscine from binding to all groups of myometria (IC50 = 2 to 3 x 10(-6) M) and displaced prazosin (Kd = 0.65 nM) from binding to myometria of nonpregnant rats (IC50 value congruent to 2 x 10(-4) M). Phentolamine also displaced rauwolscine from binding (IC50 = 2 x 10(-8) M). 5-Hydroxytryptamine displaced rauwolscine from binding only at higher concentrations (IC50 greater than 10(-5) M). We conclude that binding sites for alpha-2 adrenoceptor antagonists in myometrial microsomes were located primarily on smooth muscle plasma membrane. A smooth muscle alpha-2 adrenoceptor agonist appeared to occupy a site on muscle with the same affinity as it displayed toward rauwolscine binding site and competitively inhibited effects of an alpha-1 agonist. Our data suggest that alpha-2 adrenoceptor binding sites may exist on smooth muscle without coupling to contractile function, but their occupancy competitively prevents occupancy of alpha-1 agonist receptor activation sites.
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