The effects of atropine, pancuronium and gallamine were tested on pre- and post-junctional muscarinic receptors in the lung. Inhibition of bronchoconstriction induced by intravenous injection of acetylcholine (ACh) was used as a measure of post-junctional receptor blockade. All three antagonists reduced ACh-induced bronchoconstriction. The effects were dose-related for atropine and pancuronium and complete inhibition was obtained with 0.01 mg/kg and 10 mg/kg respectively. Gallamine was much less potent than the other two drugs; the inhibitory effect was not dose-related and never exceeded 50% even at a dose of 10 mg/kg. In contrast, blockade of pre-junctional inhibitory muscarinic receptors in pulmonary parasympathetic nerves by these three antagonists, produced potentiation of bronchoconstriction induced by vagal-nerve stimulation. Consequently, the effect of the three antagonists on vagally-induced bronchoconstriction is dependent on the balance between their pre- and post-junctional blocking activity. Gallamine was the most effective and atropine the least effective antagonist for potentiating nerve-induced bronchoconstriction. At doses which produce 100% neuromuscular blockade, both pancuronium (0.04 mg/kg) and gallamine (4 mg/kg) potentiated vagally-induced bronchoconstriction. At these doses, pancuronium doubled and gallamine caused a four-fold increase in vagally-induced bronchoconstriction, despite partial concurrent blockade of muscarinic receptors in the smooth muscle of the airways.
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