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An update on cardiovascular adrenergic receptor physiology and potential pharmacological applications in veterinary critical care


Address correspondence and reprint requests to:
Dr. Kathryn M. Long, 1410 Big Valley Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80919.


Objective: To review the recent human and veterinary literature on current adrenergic receptor physiology/pathophysiology and potential applications in veterinary critical care.

Data sources: Human and veterinary clinical studies, reviews, texts, and recent research in receptor molecular biology.

Human data synthesis: Recent development of molecular cloning and other biological research techniques has advanced the field of adrenergic physiology. The past decade of research has made available new knowledge of adrenergic receptor subtypes as well as their locations and functions. Many of the diagnostic compounds used in biochemical research to distinguish between α- and β-receptor subtypes may emerge as important additions to the arsenal of cardiovascular pharmaceuticals.

Veterinary data synthesis: Veterinary adrenoceptor research is typically directed at investigating the effects of commercially available medications. Such studies demonstrate important species differences in addition to potential side effects and new indications for therapy. Many of the human molecular biology studies are performed on animal species, which can have direct application to veterinary medicine.

Conclusions: Proper cardiovascular responses are essential to maintaining tissue perfusion and cellular homeostasis. α- and β-adrenergic receptors play a vital role not only in the pathophysiology but also in the therapy of diseases involving the cardiovascular system. For adrenergic pharmacotherapy to be successfully used, a thorough understanding of the mechanisms underlying adrenoceptor physiology is necessary. Recent research has illuminated various subsets within the α- and β-receptor classifications. Awareness of currently available and emerging adrenoceptor subtype-specific treatment options allows precise pharmacologic targeting of disease processes in critical illness.