The alpha 1-adrenergic response was predominant over the beta-adrenergic one in adult rat hepatocytes, when the responses were measured as the agonist-induced generations of Ins(1,4,5)P3 and cyclic AMP, respectively. During primary culture of the adult rat hepatocytes, the beta-adrenergic response developed rapidly, whereas the alpha 1-response decreased gradually. Such receptor-subtype switching did not occur unless the cells were cultured under conditions favourable for cell growth, i.e. at low cell density (10(4) cells/cm2). The switching was prevented progressively as the cell culture density was increased up to 20-fold or the low-density culture was achieved by addition of increasing amounts of liver plasma membranes. The gradual decrease in alpha 1-response was accounted for by a concurrent decrease in the receptor site density, whereas rapid development of the beta-response definitely preceded the increase in beta-ligand binding sites during the culture. This rapid development of the beta-response reflected enhanced coupling of the receptor to G-protein during the early stage of culture, as evidenced by the progressively developed ability of GTP to lower the affinity of beta-agonist binding to membranes prepared from these short-time-cultured hepatocytes.

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