Planta Med 2010; 76(10): 981-986
DOI: 10.1055/s-0029-1240884
Original Papers
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Effects of Synephrine and β-Phenethylamine on Human α-Adrenoceptor Subtypes

Guoyi Ma1 , Supriya A. Bavadekar2 , Brian T. Schaneberg1 , Ikhlas A. Khan1 , 3 , Dennis R. Feller1 , 2
  • 1The National Center for Natural Products Research, The University of Mississippi, University, USA
  • 2Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy, The University of Mississippi, University, USA
  • 3Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, The University of Mississippi, University, USA
Further Information

Publication History

received Nov. 21, 2009 revised January 15, 2010

accepted January 21, 2010

Publication Date:
09 March 2010 (online)


Synephrine and β-phenethylamine, two naturally occurring compounds, are structurally related to ephedrine. In this study, the effects of synephrine and β-phenethylamine on α-adrenergic receptor (α-AR) subtypes are investigated in human embryonic kidney (HEK293) or Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells, and compared to that of 1R,2S-norephedrine. The rank order of binding affinities was found to be the same for the subtypes tested (α 1A-, α 2A-, and α 2C-AR) viz, 1R,2S-norephedrine > β-phenethylamine > synephrine. Functional studies on the α 1A-AR subtype showed that synephrine was a partial agonist giving a maximal response at 100 µM that was equal to 55.3 % of the L-phenylephrine maximum. In contrast, neither 1R,2S-norephedrine nor β-phenethylamine exhibited agonist activity at the highest concentration tested (300 µM). β-Phenethylamine was more potent as an antagonist than 1R,2S-norephedrine and synephrine on the α 1A-AR subtype. Functional studies on the α 2A- and α 2C-AR subtypes indicated that synephrine and β-phenethylamine did not act as agonists. Similar to 1R,2S-norephedrine, both of these analogs reversed the effect of medetomidine against forskolin-induced cAMP elevations at 300 µM, and the rank order of antagonist potency was: 1R,2S-norephedrine = β-phenethylamine > synephrine; and β-phenethylamine > 1R,2S-norephedrine > synephrine, respectively. These differences suggest that the presence of a 4-hydroxy group, as in synephrine, reduced the potency in these subtypes. In conclusion, at the α 1A-AR, synephrine acted as a partial agonist, while β-phenethylamine did not exhibit any direct agonist activity. Both, synephrine and β-phenethylamine, may act as antagonists of pre-synaptic α 2A/2C-ARs present in nerve terminals.


Dr. Dennis R. Feller

Department of Pharmacology
School of Pharmacy
The University of Mississippi

University, MS 38677


Phone: + 1 66 29 15 12 01

Fax: + 1 66 29 15 51 48