Clones of neuroblastoma x glioma hybrid, NH108-15, cells expressing differing levels of the human beta 2 adrenoceptor were isolated. Two clones were examined in detail, beta N22 which expressed some 4000 fmol/mg of membrane protein and clone beta N17 which expressed approx. 300 fmol/mg of membrane protein of the receptor. In beta N22 cells ‘basal’ adenylate cyclase activity measured in the presence of Mg2+ was significantly greater than that in wild-type NG108-15 or beta N17 cells. Both isoprenaline and iloprost were able to stimulate adenylate cyclase activity in each of beta N22 and beta N17 membranes. However, the EC50 for isoprenaline stimulation of adenylate cyclase in membranes of beta N22 cells (6 nM) was significantly lower than that in membranes of beta N17 cells (80 nM), whereas the EC50 for iloprost stimulation of adenylate cyclase (approx. 25 nM) was the same in the two clones and in parental NG108-15 cells. The high basal adenylate cyclase activity of beta N22 cell membranes was not a reflection of higher levels of expression of the adenylate cyclase catalytic unit, as adenylate cyclase activity measured in the presence of Mn2+ was equivalent in membranes of each of wild-type NG108-15 cells and clones beta N22 and beta N17. Basal adenylate cyclase activity measured in the presence of Mg2+ in clone beta N22 was significantly reduced, however, by the beta-receptor antagonist propranolol, whereas this agent was without effect on basal adenylate cyclase activity in membranes of wild-type NG108-15 cells. These data indicate that the elevated basal adenylate cyclase cascade in NG108-15 cells expressing high levels of the beta 2 adrenoceptor represents empty receptor activation of the signalling cascade.

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