The immune response evokes up- and down-modulation of β2-adrenergic receptor messenger RNA concentration in the male rat thymus

Maria Concetta Morale, Francesco Gallo, Nunzio Batticane, Bianca Marchetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Important alterations of noradrenergic activity are known to occur in specific brain regions and in different lymphoid tissues during the course of an immune response. Our recent characterization of the β2-adrenergic receptor (β2AR)-cAMP system of the rat thymus gland, the identification of a thymic β2AR gene expression, and the marked modulation of receptor mRNA concentration after castration and replacement with estrogen prompted us to study the ability of products of immune axis activation to modulate β2AR number, distribution, and expression in the male rat thymus. Moreover, the effect of adrenergic stimulation of adenylyl cyclase activity on thymus gland membrane preparations was measured. The β2AR present in the rat thymus undergoes marked changes in both number and distribution during the course of an immune response. At 3 days after antigenic challenge (injection of BSA in complete Freund's adjuvant), a sharp decrease of receptor number coupled with a significant loss of the autoradiographic reaction in the medullary compartment of the rat thymus gland were observed. These effects were followed by a significant increase in receptor density and number without changes in receptor affinity at 7 and 15 days post immunization, corresponding to the pick of the immune response. Parallel alterations in adenylyl cyclase activity were measured. Northern blot analysis, using a human β2AR cDNA as a probe, revealed dramatic alterations of the β2AR mRNA in the thymus, characterized by an approximately 75% decrease of mRNA level 3 days after immunization, and by a progressive increase at 7 and 15 days, with β2AR mRNA concentration rising to levels even higher than those found in control animals. These results suggest that the immune response evokes marked alterations of the thymic β2AR-cAMP signaling pathway. Moreover, antigenic stimulation triggers a down- and up-modulation of β2AR gene expression. Although it is presently unknown whether factor(s) released by immune axis activation act at the level of gene transcription to modulate adrenergic receptor function in the rat thymus, such down- and up-regulation of β2AR mRNA may play a role in the dynamic regu-lation of the immune response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1513-1524
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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