Evidence for the extraneuronal accumulation of norepinephrine has been demonstrated to occur in macrophage (M phi), yet the physiologic role of this system remains undefined. We have assessed the response of murine peritoneal M phi to adrenergic antagonists. We have also defined a physiologic role of a M phi-associated pool of the nonspecific adrenergic agonist norepinephrine. We investigated the constitutive involvement of alpha-adrenergic and beta-adrenergic receptors in LPS-induced TNF-alpha production. CFA-elicited M phis were incubated with LPS (1 microgram/ml) in the presence or absence of adrenergic agonists and/or antagonists. Although stimulation of alpha-adrenergic receptors increased TNF production and gene expression, beta-adrenergic receptors decreased it. Interestingly, when adrenergic antagonists along with LPS alone were added to M phi, they generated the response opposite to that produced by their suitable agonist, suggesting a role for endogenous norepinephrine in M phi. Thus, although alpha 2-adrenergic antagonists attenuated TNF production, beta-adrenergic antagonists augmented TNF expression in a concentration-dependent manner. Norepinephrine and epinephrine were found in M phi as determined by HPLC and LPS stimulation induced a significant decrease in their content. M phis were also incubated with LPS or medium only, washed, and then challenged 12 h later with LPS. When given a second LPS stimulation, M phis were found to have an increased response to alpha 2-adrenergic agonists and decreased response to alpha 2-adrenergic antagonists. Therefore, M phi-associated norepinephrine appears to regulate LPS-induced TNF production in an autocrine fashion.

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