The present experiments were undertaken to investigate the role of the phosphoinositides phosphatidylinositol 4-phosphate (PtdIns-4-P) and phosphatidylinositol 4,5-biphosphate (PtdIns-4,5-P2) in the alpha 1-adrenergic stimulation of respiration in isolated hamster brown adipocytes. Exposure of isolated brown adipocytes to the alpha-adrenergic-receptor agonist phenylephrine provoked a breakdown of 30-50% of the PtdIns-4-P and PtdIns-4,5-P2 after prelabelling of the cells with [32P]Pi. Coincident with the breakdown of phosphoinositides was an accumulation of labelled phosphatidic acid, which continued for the duration of the cell incubation. The time course of phosphoinositide breakdown was defined more precisely by pulse-chase experiments. Under these conditions, phenylephrine caused radioactivity in phosphatidylinositol, PtdIns-4-P and PtdIns-4,5-P2 to fall by more than 50% within 30 s and to remain at the depressed value for the duration of the incubation (10 min). This phospholipid response to alpha-adrenergic stimulation was blocked by exposure of the cells to phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA); likewise phenylephrine stimulation of respiration was prevented by PMA. beta-Adrenergic stimulation of respiration and inhibition of respiration by 2-chloroadenosine and insulin were, however, unaffected by treatment with PMA. On the assumption that PMA is acting in these cells as an activator of protein kinase C, these results suggest the selective interruption of alpha-adrenergic actions in brown adipocytes by activated protein kinase C. These findings suggest that breakdown of phosphoinositides is an early event in alpha-adrenergic stimulation of brown adipocytes which may be important for the subsequent stimulation of respiration. The results from the pulse-chase studies also suggest, however, that phenylephrine-stimulated breakdown of inositol phospholipids is a short-lived event which does not appear to persist for the entire period of exposure to the alpha 1-adrenergic ligand.

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