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Keywords:

  • Receptors;
  • beta-adrenergic receptors;
  • alpha-adrenergic receptors;
  • pregnancy;
  • Down-regulation;
  • desensitization

Abstract

In this review we discuss adrenergic receptor number and function during pregnancy, with emphasis on evidence that pregnancy results in specific receptor alterations from the nonpregnant state. Changes in adrenergic receptor function or distribution in vascular smooth muscle may be in part responsible for the decreased vascular responsiveness seen in human pregnancy, and the lack of the normal alterations may be a part of the syndromes of gestational hypertension, including preeclampsia-eclampsia. The onset of labor may be influenced by adrenergic modulation, and receptor or postreceptor level molecular alterations may trigger or facilitate normal or preterm labor. Human studies are emphasized when possible to assess the role of adrenergic signal transduction regulation in the physiology and pathophysiology of normal and complicated human pregnancy. © 1996 Wiley-Liss, Inc.