In the present study we establish that the ß-AA antagonist propranolol can, besides its ß-AR blocking effect, either amplify or direct induce a contraction in guinea pig airway preparations, in vitro.
Propranolol significantly enhanced the contractile response to ovalbumin (OA). The enhancement was reduced by capsaicin but insensitive to indomethacin pretreatment. These results suggest that propranolol produce airway hyperreactivity to OA by activating a pathway involving tachykinins and that COX-products are of minor significance.
We also confirm that propranolol can induce a tracheal smooth muscle contraction directly, although pre-treatment with carbachol/formoterol is a prerequisite. Direct contractile responses were completely diminished by indomethacin and reduced by capsaicin and L-659,877 (a NK2-receptor antagonist) pre-treatment. The present study shows that propranolol also enhances NANC (excitatory non-adrenergic noncholinergic) contractions but this enhancement requires pre-treatment with a 13-agonist. When the pre-treatment was excluded propranolol failed to exert either a direct or an amplifying effect on EFS (electrical field stimulation). These results contrast to the recorded enhancement of the OA-induced response, which did not request any pre-treatment.
In addition, propranolol induced an elevation of [Ca2+], in ASMC (airway smooth muscle cells), this effect was not dependent on any pre-treatment and inhibited by indomethacin treatment.
The mechanism behind these adverse effects of propranolol is not known, but our results demonstrate that contractile mediators do not originate from the airway epithelium. Since, epithelium removal did not reduce the contractile response. Furthermore, pertussis toxin (PTX) treatment did not effect the propranolol-induced contraction, indicating that a PTX sensitive G-protein coupling pathway not is involved.
In conclusion our results show that both indomethacin and capsaicin sensitive pathways are involved in the contractile response to propranolol. The relative significance of these systems differs; the direct contractile effect is strongly dependent on an indomethacin sensitive pathway, while the amplifying effect is sensitive to capsaicin and insensitive to indomethacin pre-treatment.
Further studies are required to elucidate the clinical relevance of these results.