Adrenergic alpha-agonists (or alpha-adrenergic agonists) are a class of sympathomimetic agents that selectively stimulates alpha adrenergic receptors. The alpha-adrenergic receptor has two subclasses α1 and α2. Alpha 2 receptors are associated with sympatholytic properties. Alpha-adrenergic agonists have the opposite function of alpha blockers. Alpha adrenoreceptor ligands mimic the action of epinephrine and norepinephrine signaling in the heart, smooth muscle and central nervous system, with norepinephrine being the highest affinity. The activation of α1 stimulates the membrane bound enzyme phospholipase C, and activation of α2 inhibits the enzyme adenylate cyclase. Inactivation of adenylate cyclase in turn leads to the inactivation of the secondary messenger cyclic adenosine monophosphate and induces smooth muscle and blood vessel constriction.
Although complete selectivity between receptor agonism is rarely achieved, some agents have partial selectivity. NB: the inclusion of a drug in each category just indicates the activity of the drug at that receptor, not necessarily the selectivity of the drug (unless otherwise noted).
Alpha-adrenergic agonists, more specifically the auto receptors of alpha 2 neurons, are used in the treatment of glaucoma by decreasing the production of aqueous fluid by the ciliary bodies of the eye and also by increasing uveoscleral outflow. Medications such as clonidine and dexmedetomidine target pre-synaptic auto receptors, therefore leading to an overall decrease in norepinephrine which clinically can cause effects such as sedation, analgesia, lowering of blood pressure and bradycardia. There is also low quality evidence that they can reduce shivering post operatively
The reduction of the stress response caused by alpha 2 agonists were theorised to be beneficial peri operatively by reducing cardiac complications, however this has shown not to be clinically effective as there was no reduction in cardiac events or mortality but there was an increased incidence of hypotension and bradycardia
^Crassous PA, Cardinaletti C, Carrieri A, Bruni B, Di Vaira M, Gentili F, Ghelfi F, Giannella M, Paris H, Piergentili A, Quaglia W, Schaak S, Vesprini C, Pigini M (August 2007). "Alpha2-adrenoreceptors profile modulation. 3.1 (R)-(+)-m-nitrobiphenyline, a new efficient and alpha2C-subtype selective agonist". Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 50 (16): 3964–8. doi:10.1021/jm061487a. PMID17630725.
^Del Bello, Fabio; Mattioli, Laura; Ghelfi, Francesca; Giannella, Mario; Piergentili, Alessandro; Quaglia, Wilma; Cardinaletti, Claudia; Perfumi, Marina; Thomas, Russell J.; Zanelli, Ugo; Marchioro, Carla; Dal Cin, Michele; Pigini, Maria (11 November 2010). "Fruitful Adrenergic α2C-Agonism/α2A-Antagonism Combination to Prevent and Contrast Morphine Tolerance and Dependence". Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 53 (21): 7825–7835. doi:10.1021/jm100977d. PMID20925410.
^Hsu, W. H. and Lu, Z.-X. (1984). Amitraz' induced delay of gastrointestinal transit in mice: Mediated by α2 adrenergic receptors. Drug Development Research, Volume 4 (6), 655- 680.
^Haenisch, B.; Walstab, J.; Herberhold, S.; Bootz, F.; Tschaikin, M.; Ramseger, R.; Bönisch, H. (2009). "Alpha-adrenoceptor Agonistic Activity of Oxymetazoline and Xylometazoline". Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology. 24 (6): 729–39. doi:10.1111/j.1472-8206.2009.00805.x. PMID20030735.
^Westfall Thomas C, Westfall David P, "Chapter 6. Neurotransmission: The Autonomic and Somatic Motor Nervous Systems" (Chapter). Brunton LL, Lazo JS, Parker KL: Goodman & Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 11e: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-30. Retrieved 2015-01-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link).
^Ruffolo, R. R. Jr.; Waddell, J. E. (1982). "Receptor interactions of imidazolines. IX. Cirazoline is an α1 adrenergic agonist and an α2 adrenergic antagonist". Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 222 (1): 29–36. PMID6123592.
^Shen, Howard (2008). Illustrated Pharmacology Memory Cards: PharMnemonics. Minireview. p. 4. ISBN978-1-59541-101-3.
^Lewis, Sharon R; Nicholson, Amanda; Smith, Andrew F; Alderson, Phil (2015-08-10). "Alpha-2 adrenergic agonists for the prevention of shivering following general anaesthesia". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (8): CD011107. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd011107.pub2. ISSN1465-1858. PMID26256531.
^Duncan, Dallas; Sankar, Ashwin; Beattie, W Scott; Wijeysundera, Duminda N (2018-03-06). "Alpha-2 adrenergic agonists for the prevention of cardiac complications among adults undergoing surgery". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd004126.pub3. ISSN1465-1858.