Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cell and Regulatory Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Richard B. Clark

Committee Member

Joseph L. Alcorn

Committee Member

Carmen W. Dessauer

Committee Member

Agnes Schonbrunn

Committee Member

Prahlad T. Ram


The β2 adrenergic receptor (β2AR) regulates smooth muscle relaxation in the vasculature and airways. Long- and Short-acting β-agonists (LABAs/SABAs) are widely used in treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and asthma. Despite their widespread clinical use we do not understand well the dominant β2AR regulatory pathways that are stimulated during therapy and bring about tachyphylaxis, which is the loss of drug effects. Thus, an understanding of how the β2AR responds to various β-agonists is crucial to their rational use. Towards that end we have developed deterministic models that explore the mechanism of drug- induced β2AR regulation. These mathematical models can be classified into three classes; (i) Six quantitative models of SABA-induced G protein coupled receptor kinase (GRK)-mediated β2AR regulation; (ii) Three phenomenological models of salmeterol (a LABA)-induced GRK-mediated β2AR regulation; and (iii) One semi-quantitative, unified model of SABA-induced GRK-, protein kinase A (PKA)-, and phosphodiesterase (PDE)-mediated regulation of β2AR signalling. The various models were constrained with all or some of the following experimental data; (i) GRK-mediated β2AR phosphorylation in response to various LABAs/SABAs; (ii) dephosphorylation of the GRK site on the β2AR; (iii) β2AR internalisation; (iv) β2AR recycling; (v) β2AR desensitisation; (vi) β2AR resensitisation; (vii) PKA-mediated β2AR phosphorylation in response to a SABA; and (viii) LABA/SABA induced cAMP profile ± PDE inhibitors. The models of GRK-mediated β2AR regulation show that plasma membrane dephosphorylation and recycling of the phosphorylated β2AR are required to reconcile with the measured dephosphorylation kinetics. We further used a consensus model to predict the consequences of rapid pulsatile agonist stimulation and found that although resensitisation was rapid, the β2AR system retained the memory of prior stimuli and desensitised much more rapidly and strongly in response to subsequent stimuli. This could explain tachyphylaxis of SABAs over repeated use in rescue therapy of asthma patients. The LABA models show that the long action of salmeterol can be explained due to decreased stability of the arrestin/β2AR/salmeterol complex. This could explain long action of β-agonists used in maintenance therapy of asthma patients. Our consensus model of PKA/PDE/GRK-mediated β2AR regulation is being used to identify the dominant β2AR desensitisation pathways under different therapeutic regimens in human airway cells. In summary our models represent a significant advance towards understanding agonist-specific β2AR regulation that will aid in a more rational use of the β2AR agonists in the treatment of asthma.


β2AR, simulation, desensitisation, salmeterol, drug partial agonism, computational biology, GPCRs, asthma, pharmacology