While an age-associated diminution in myocardial contractile response to beta-adrenergic receptor (beta-AR) stimulation has been widely demonstrated to occur in the context of increased levels of plasma catecholamines, some critical mechanisms that govern beta-AR signaling must still be examined in aged hearts. Specifically, the contribution of beta-AR subtypes (beta1 versus beta2) to the overall reduction in contractile response with aging is unknown. Additionally, whether G protein-coupled receptor kinases (GRKs), which mediate receptor desensitization, or adenylyl cyclase inhibitory G proteins (Gi) are increased with aging has not been examined. Both these inhibitory mechanisms are upregulated in chronic heart failure, a condition also associated with diminished beta-AR responsiveness and increased circulatory catecholamines.
In this study, the contractile responses to both beta1 -AR and beta2 -AR stimulation were examined in rat ventricular myocytes of a broad age range (2, 8, and 24 mo). A marked age-associated depression in contractile response to both beta-AR subtype stimulation was observed. This was associated with a nonselective reduction in the density of both beta-AR subtypes and a reduction in membrane adenylyl cyclase response to both beta-AR subtype agonists, NaF or forskolin. However, the age-associated diminutions in contractile responses to either beta1 -AR or beta2 -AR stimulation were not rescued by inhibiting Gi with pertussis toxin treatment. Further, the abundance or activity of beta-adrenergic receptor kinase, GRK5, or Gi did not significantly change with aging. Thus, we conclude that the positive inotropic effects of both beta1 - and beta (2) -AR stimulation are markedly decreased with aging in rat ventricular myocytes and this is accompanied by decreases in both beta-AR subtype densities and a reduction in membrane adenylate cyclase activity. Neither GRKs nor Gi proteins appear to contribute to the age-associated reduction in cardiac beta-AR responsiveness. (J. Clin. Invest. 1998. 101:1273-1282.)