Murine neuroblastoma clone N1E-115 possesses receptors that specifically bind the tridecapeptide neurotensin, mediate the formation of intracellular cyclic GMP, and stimulate inositol phospholipid hydrolysis. These cells also rapidly degrade neurotensin in a sequential fashion. We studied the effect of prolonged exposure of cells to neurotensin on subsequent neurotensin receptor-mediated intracellular cyclic GMP formation under conditions that prevented degradation of this peptide [J. A. Gilbert and E. Richelson, Soc. Neurosci. Abstr. 12, 762 (1986)]. Neurotensin receptor-mediated cyclic GMP formation in neuroblastoma clone N1E-115 was decreased following prolonged exposure of intact cells to nondegraded neurotensin. The time course of this desensitization was very rapid; the maximal effect on cyclic GMP production (reduction to 10-30% of control values) occurred within 5 min of exposure of intact cells to neurotensin. This desensitization was homologous, as cells desensitized by neurotensin demonstrated no decrease in their cyclic GMP response to angiotensin II (1 μM) or bradykinin (10 nM). Neurotensin preincubation with intact N1E-115 cells for increasing lengths of time caused time-dependent shifts to the right of the dose-response curve and reductions in the maximum cyclic GMP response. Desensitization was reversible, but resensitization was a slower process than desensitization: full recovery of cyclic GMP production required incubation of the desensitized cells for at least 10 min at 37°. From binding studies with [3H] neurotensin, we found that both the apparent equilibrium dissociation constant, KD, and the maximum number of receptor sites, Bmax, for this radioligand were decreased significantly (P < 0.05) for completely desensitized cells from those values for control cells. These data suggest that desensitization of the neurotensin receptor involved an uncoupling of the pathway of events connecting receptor activation to intracellular cyclic GMP formation; complete desensitization involved both the apparent loss of neurotensin receptors on the cellular surface and the increase in affinity of the remaining receptors for the agonist. This decrease in BMAX is more likely to be a result of intracellular sequestration of recyclable NT receptors than of true down-regulation due to the rapid resensitization seen for the NT-mediated biological response.
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