Background: Chronic exposure to fenoterol (FEN), a β2-adrenergic receptor (β2-AR) agonist, was shown to induce both airway hyperresponsiveness and airway remodeling in experimental animals. Objective: We wanted to know the effects of chronic exposure to procaterol (PRO), a β2-AR agonist, on airway function and structure, because this agent is widely used as a bronchodilator in Japan. For comparison, the effects of FEN were also examined. Methods: Aerosolized PRO (0.1 or 1 mg/ml), FEN (1 mg/ml) or vehicle (0.9% NaCl) was given to guinea pigs 3 times a day for 6 weeks. Sublaryngeal deposition of these agents was calculated using radioisotopes. At 72 h after the last inhalation of PRO, FEN or vehicle, the dose-response relationship between lung resistance (RL) and intravenously administered acetylcholine (ACh) was measured. After measuring RL, histological changes in noncartilaginous airway dimensions were evaluated. Results: The amount of sublaryngeal deposition of 0.1 mg/ml PRO in the present study was speculated to be 100 times larger than that of therapeutic dose. ACh concentrations causing 2-fold, 10-fold and maximal increases in RL were not different in 4 groups tested. In the smaller membranous airways (<0.4 mm in diameter), but not the larger ones, thickening of adventitial areas was significantly greater in animals treated with β2-AR agonists than in control animals (23 and 25, and 96% higher in animals treated with 0.1 and 1 mg/ml PRO or 1 mg/ml FEN, respectively). The degree of the increase was significantly less in PRO-treated animals than in FEN-treated animals (p < 0.01). Conclusion: Our results did not provide any evidence that regular inhalation of PRO at the therapeutic dose might induce bronchial hyperresponsiveness. In addition, huge amounts of PRO only caused a mild thickening of the adventitial areas, suggesting that PRO may be a weak inducer of airway remodeling compared with FEN.

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