We examined the impact of parainfluenza-3 (P-3) respiratory tract viral infection on the density and function of endothelin (ET) receptor subtypes (ETA and ETB) in guinea pig tracheal smooth muscle. Total specific binding of [125I]ET-1 and the relative proportions of ETA and ETB binding sites for this ligand were assessed at day 0 (control) and at 2, 4, 8 and 16 days post-inoculation. At day 0, the proportions of ETA and ETB binding sites were 30% and 70% respectively. Total specific binding was significantly reduced at day 4 post-inoculation (32% reduction, n = 8–12, P<0.05) and was largely due to a corresponding fall in ETB receptor density at this time point (38% reduction, n = 8–12, P<0.05). The density of ETA receptors also fell significantly at day 8 post-inoculation (33% reduction, n = 6–12, P<0.05). By day 16 post-inoculation, the densities of ETA and ETB receptors had recovered to control values. The ratio of ETA:ETB receptor subtypes did not alter with P-3 infection. While P-3 infection reduced the density of tracheal smooth muscle ETA and ETB receptors, the contractile sensitivity and maximum response to carbachol and ET-1 was not altered in tissue from day 4 post-inoculation compared with the control. There seems to be a significant functional reserve for both receptor subtypes in this species that buffers the impact of P-3 infection on airway smooth muscle responsiveness to ET-1.

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