Catecholamines act via a β-adrenergic receptor to maintain fetal heart rate and survival


Journal Article

Mice lacking catecholamines die before birth, some with cardiovascular abnormalities. To investigate the role of catecholamines in development, embryonic day 12.5 (E12.5) fetuses were cultured and heart rate monitored. Under optimal oxygenation, wild-type and catecholamine-deficient fetuses had the same initial heart rate (200-220 beats/min), which decreased by 15% in wild-type fetuses during 50 min of culture. During the same culture period, catecholamine-deficient fetuses dropped their heart rate by 35%. Hypoxia reduced heart rate of wild-type fetuses by 35-40% in culture and by 20% in utero, assessed by echocardiography. However, catecholamine-deficient fetuses exhibited greater hypoxia-induced bradycardia, reducing their heart rate by 70-75% in culture. Isoproterenol, a β-adrenergic receptor (β-AR) agonist, reversed this extreme bradycardia, restoring the rate of catecholamine-deficient fetuses to that of nonmutant siblings. Moreover, isoproterenol rescued 100% of catecholamine-deficient pups to birth in a dose-dependent, stereo-specific manner when administered in the dam's drinking water. An α-AR agonist was without effect. When wild-type fetuses were cultured with adrenoreceptor antagonists to create pharmacological nulls, blockade of α-ARs with 10 μM phentolamine or β-ARs with 10 μM bupranolol alone or in combination did not reduce heart rate under optimal oxygenation. However, when combined with hypoxia, β-AR blockade reduced heart rate by 35%. In contrast, the muscarinic blocker atropine and the α-AR antagonist phentolamine had no effect. These data suggest that β-ARs mediate survival in vivo and regulate heart rate in culture. We hypothesize that norepinephrine, acting through β-ARs, maintains fetal heart rate during periods of transient hypoxia that occur throughout gestation, and that catecholamine-deficient fetuses die because they cannot withstand hypoxia-induced bradycardia.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Portbury, AL; Chandra, R; Groelle, M; McMillian, MK; Elias, A; Herlong, JR; Rios, M; Roffler-Tarlov, S; Chikaraishi, DM

Published Date

  • June 1, 2003

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 284 / 6 53-6

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0363-6135

Citation Source

  • Scopus