The human β -adrenoceptor is a member of the seven-transmembrane family of receptors, encoded by a gene on chromosome 5. β -Adrenoceptors have been classified into β1, β2, and β3 subgroups, with β2-receptors being widely distributed in the respiratory tract, particularly in airway smooth muscle. Intracellular signaling following β2-adrenoceptor activation is largely affected through a trimeric Gs protein coupled to adenylate cyclase. Cyclic AMP (cAMP) induces airway relaxation through phosphorylation of muscle regulatory proteins and attenuation of cellular Ca2 + concentrations. Alternative cAMP-independent pathways involving activation of membrane maxi-K+ channels and coupling through Gi to the MAP kinase system have also been described. Site-directed mutagenesis has identified Asp 113 and Ser 204/207 within the third and fourth membrane domains as the active site of the β2-receptor, critical for β2-agonist binding and activity. β2-Agonists have been characterized as those that directly activate the receptor (albuterol), those that are taken up into a membrane depot (formoterol), and those that interact with a receptor-specific auxiliary binding site (salmeterol). These differences in mechanism of action are reflected in the kinetics of airway smooth muscle relaxation and bronchodilation in patients with asthma. β -Adrenoceptor desensitization associated with β2-agonist activation is a consequence of phosphorylation by β -ARK and uncoupling of the receptor from Gs following β -arrestin binding, of internalization and recycling of the receptor through processes of sequestration and resensitization and downregulation, modulated by an effect on receptor gene expression. The degree of receptor desensitization appears to differ, depending on the cell or tissue type, and is reflected in the different profiles of clinical tolerance to chronic β2-agonist therapy. A number of polymorphisms of the β2-receptor have been described that appear to alter the behavior of the receptor following agonist exposure. These include Arg-Gly 16, Glu-Gln 27, and Thr-lle 164. The Gly 16 receptor downregulates to a greater extent and is associated with increased airway hyperreactivity, nocturnal symptoms, and more severe asthma. The Glu 27 form appears to protect against downregulation and is associated with less reactive airways. An individual can be homozygous or heterozygous for given polymorphisms, and large populations will have to be studied to determine their importance to the asthma phenotype. Johnson M. The β -adrenoceptor.