Author(s): Davenport AP, Maguire JJ
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Abstract In humans, the endothelins (ETs) comprise a family of three 21-amino-acid peptides, ET-1, ET-2 and ET-3. ET-1 is synthesised from a biologically inactive precursor, Big ET-1, by an unusual hydrolysis of the Trp21 -Val22 bond by the endothelin converting enzyme (ECE-1). In humans, there are four isoforms (ECE-1a-d) derived from a single gene by the action of alternative promoters. Structurally, they differ only in the amino acid sequence of the extreme N-terminus. A second enzyme, ECE-2, also exists as four isoforms and differs from ECE-1 in requiring an acidic pH for optimal activity. Human chymase can also cleave Big ET-1 to ET-1, which is cleaved, in turn, to the mature peptide as an alternative pathway. ET-1 is the principal isoform in the human cardiovascular system and remains one of the most potent constrictors of human vessels discovered. ET-1 is unusual in being released from a dual secretory pathway. The peptide is continuously released from vascular endothelial cells by the constitutive pathway, producing intense constriction of the underlying smooth muscle and contributing to the maintenance of endogenous vascular tone. ET-1 is also released from endothelial cell-specific storage granules (Weibel-Palade bodies) in response to external stimuli. ETs mediate their action by activating two G protein-coupled receptor sub-types, ETA and ET(B). Two therapeutic strategies have emerged to oppose the actions of ET-1, namely inhibition of the synthetic enzyme by combined ECE/neutral endopeptidase inhibitors such as SLV306, and receptor antagonists such as bosentan. The ET system is up-regulated in atherosclerosis, and ET antagonists may be of benefit in reducing blood pressure in essential hypertension. Bosentan, the first ET antagonist approved for clinical use, represents a significant new therapeutic strategy in the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).
This article was published in Handb Exp Pharmacol
and referenced in Journal of Hypertension: Open Access