Despite the large body of information on the role of corticosteroids in regulating lymphocyte and phagocyte function, the role of the hormone adrenaline in immunoregulation is an under-investigated topic. The present study has addressed the effects of adrenaline on the rates of utilization and oxidation of glucose and glutamine, the phagocytic capacity and the rate of superoxide production by rat neutrophils. Incubation of rat neutrophils in the presence of 50 µM adrenaline caused a marked elevation in glucose metabolism, an effect that could be blocked by propranolol. Adrenaline caused a partial inhibition of glutamine utilization by neutrophils, an effect that was also blocked by propranolol. These effects of adrenaline could be mimicked by 100 µM dibutyryl cAMP. Phosphate-dependent glutaminase activity was significantly elevated in neutrophils incubated in the presence of 50 µM adrenaline or 100 µM dibutyryl cAMP for 1 h, whereas glutamine oxidation was significantly depressed (P < 0.05) under these conditions. The elevation in enzyme activity was only partially blocked by propranolol. The phagocytic activity of rat neutrophils was not altered by adrenaline in the presence of either glucose or glutamine. The rate of phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate-induced superoxide production in the presence of glucose was potently reduced by the addition of 5 nM or 50 µM adrenaline. This effect could be mimicked by dibutyryl cAMP. However, when rat neutrophils were incubated in the presence of glutamine plus adrenaline (5 nM or 50 µM), the rate of superoxide production was only marginally reduced. These findings support the proposition that adrenaline may deviate the flux of glucose from the NADPH-producing pentose phosphate pathway, thus reducing substrate availability for the superoxide-generating NADPH oxidase. However, glutamine metabolism may still give rise to substantial quantities of NADPH from the glutaminolysis pathway. We postulate that glutamine metabolism may thus provide a protective mechanism against the inhibitory effect of adrenaline on superoxide production by neutrophils.

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