The myocardial responsiveness of conscious, instrumented dogs to exogenously administered isoproterenol and norepinephrine was investigated in neonatal, 6-wk-old, and adult animals. Comparable base-line values for peak left ventricular derivative of pressure with respect to time were observed in all age categories. However, when compared with adult responses, the sympathomimetic amine-induced increases in neonatal left ventricular dP/dt were significantly blunted at each concentration of adrenergic agonist examined, whereas the 6-wk-old puppies displayed an intermediate inotropic response. To investigate the cellular mechanisms of this blunted neonatal response, we correlated physiologic and biochemical measurements of the myocardial responses to catecholamines in each age category. When compared with adult myocardial membrane preparations, neonatal cardiac membranes were characterized in vitro by an increased density of β-adrenergic binding sites, comparable affinity for adrenergic agonists and antagonists, and an enhanced coupling of adenylate cyclase activation to receptor occupancy. Simultaneous changes in either the serum catecholamine concentration or the membrane content of other intrinsic proteins failed to account for the observed neonatal increase in β-adrenergic receptor density. These findings are most consistent with a compensatory mechanism of the cardiac cell membrane, whereby an inherent depression in the adrenergic responsiveness of the immature myocardium appears to induce the increase in receptor density and activation of adenylate cyclase.
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