Previous studies have shown that norepinephrine (NE) elicits trans-membrane potential changes in skeletal muscle cells from normal and dystrophic (BIO 14.6) hamsters, with the magnitude of these changes being significantly less in dystrophic cells. To determine if the decreased response of the dystrophic muscle cells reflects a more generalized phenomenon, the present study was designed to evaluate the effects of NE on membrane properties of brown adipocytes. In vivo techniques using glass microelectrodes were similar to those used in the muscle studies. NE injection (2 to 5 μg/kg body wt, i.v.) into anesthetized hamsters was followed by membrane depolarization, the magnitude of which did not significantly differ in the dystrophic and normal adipocytes. For example, upon administration of 5 μg NE/kg body wt, the average depolarization was 14.5 ± 1.3 mV (X ± S.E.) for 20 dystrophic cells and 14.1 ± 1.8 mV for 18 normal cells. The depolarizations following i.v. infusion of isoproterenol and phenylephrine also had similar amplitudes in both normal and dystrophic cells. Despite this lack of difference in plasma membrane responses, NE induced a significantly smaller rise in interscapular brown fat temperature in the dystrophic (0.09°C) than in the normal hamsters (0.26°C) following administration of 5 μg NE/kg body wt. Thus, the decreased responsiveness to NE of dystrophic sarcolemma did not occur with the plasma membrane of brown adipocytes, although brown fat temperature changes in the dystrophic hamsters were decreased in amplitude.
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