Adrenergic receptors

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Adrenergic receptors


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USMLE® Step 1 questions

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High Yield Notes

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Adrenergic receptors

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USMLE® Step 1 style questions USMLE

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A study is conducted on the adrenergic receptors in the body. It was found that there are 3 types of beta-receptors that could be identified. Beta-1 receptors located in the heart are compared to beta-2 receptors located in the lungs. Which of the following is most accurate about both of these receptors?  

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Adrenoreceptors p. 240


Adrenergic receptors are receptors on the surface of cells that get activated when they bind a type of neurotransmitter called a catecholamine.

Catecholamines are involved in the stimulation of our organs by the sympathetic nervous system; they help to trigger the fight or flight response.

The nervous system is divided into the central nervous system, so the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, which includes all the nerves that connect the central nervous system to the muscles and organs.

The peripheral nervous system can be divided into the somatic nervous system, which controls voluntary movement of our skeletal muscles, and the autonomic nervous system, which is further divided into the sympathetic and the parasympathetic, and controls the involuntary movement of the smooth muscles and glands of our organs.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems have opposite effects on the body.

The sympathetic nervous system controls functions like increasing the heart rate and blood pressure, as well as slowing digestion. All of this maximizes blood flow to the muscles and brain, and can help you either run away from a threat or fight it, which is why it’s also called the fight or flight response.

The parasympathetic nervous system instead slows the heart rate and stimulates digestion - the effects can be summarized as 'rest and digest'.


Adrenergic receptors are proteins found on the surface of cells that respond to the hormone adrenaline (epinephrine). There are three types of adrenergic receptors - alpha, beta, and gamma. Each type responds to a different set of chemical signals from adrenalin.

When adrenaline binds to its receptor, it triggers a series of biochemical reactions inside the cell that result in increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and other effects that prepare the body for physical activity.


  1. "Medical Physiology" Elsevier (2016)
  2. "Physiology" Elsevier (2017)
  3. "Human Anatomy & Physiology" Pearson (2018)
  4. "Principles of Anatomy and Physiology" Wiley (2014)
  5. "A STUDY OF THE ADRENOTROPIC RECEPTORS" American Journal of Physiology-Legacy Content (1948)
  6. "Excitatory Actions of Noradrenaline and Metabotropic Glutamate Receptor Activation in Granule Cells of the Accessory Olfactory Bulb" Journal of Neurophysiology (2009)

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