Treatment of intact hepatocytes with glucagon led to the rapid desensitization of adenylate cyclase, which reached a maximum around 5 min after application of glucagon, after which resensitization ensued. Complete resensitization occurred some 20 min after the addition of glucagon. In hepatocytes which had been preincubated with the cyclic AMP phosphodiesterase inhibitor 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine (IBMX), glucagon elicited a stable desensitized state where resensitization failed to occur even 20 min after exposure of hepatocytes to glucagon. Treatment with IBMX alone did not elicit desensitization. The action of IBMX in stabilizing the glucagon-mediated desensitized state was mimicked by the non-methylxanthine cyclic AMP phosphodiesterase inhibitor Ro-20-1724 [4-(3-butoxy-4-methoxylbenzyl)-2-imidazolidinone]. IBMX inhibited the resensitization process in a dose-dependent fashion with an EC50 (concn. giving 50% of maximal effect) of 26 +/- 5 microM, which was similar to the EC50 value of 22 +/- 6 microM observed for the ability of IBMX to augment the glucagon-stimulated rise in intracellular cyclic AMP concentrations. Pre-treatment of hepatocytes with IBMX did not alter the ability of either angiotensin or the glucagon analogue TH-glucagon, ligands which did not increase intracellular cyclic AMP concentrations, to cause the rapid desensitization and subsequent resensitization of adenylate cyclase. It is suggested that, although desensitization of glucagon-stimulated adenylate cyclase is elicited by a cyclic AMP-independent process, the resensitization of adenylate cyclase can be inhibited by a process which is dependent on elevated cyclic AMP concentrations. This action can be detected by attenuating the degradation of cyclic AMP by using inhibitors of cyclic AMP phosphodiesterase.

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