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J Histochem Cytochem. 1999 Apr;47(4):447-62.

Cellular distribution of endothelin-converting enzyme-1 in human tissues.

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  • 1INSERM U36, Coll├Ęge de France, Paris, France.


Endothelin-converting enzyme-1 (ECE-1) is the key enzyme of endothelin biosynthesis, catalyzing the final processing step. As shown by the targeted disruption of the ECE-1 gene, mature endothelins must be produced at specific sites for normal embryonic development. Therefore, it is important to know the exact pattern of ECE-1 gene expression. In this study we investigated the cellular distribution of ECE-1 in a variety of human tissues by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. Widespread expression of the ECE-1 gene was noted, with a similar distribution pattern for mRNA and protein in normal human tissues, suggesting a major biological role for ECE-1. ECE-1 levels were particularly high in the cardiovascular, reproductive, and endocrine systems. There was strong and consistent labeling for ECE-1 in the vascular endothelial cells of all organs examined and in various nonvascular cells, especially some glandular cells. A large amount of ECE-1 protein and mRNA was detected in the Leydig cells of the testis and in the granulosa and theca cells of the ovary. In the adrenal gland, ECE-1 was detected in the cortex and medulla, with the strongest labeling in the zona glomerulosa. Therefore, ECE-1 may be involved in other systems, such as the regulation of hormone secretion, rather than exclusively generating ET-1 from its precursor. These results point out the potential side effects of ECE-1 inhibitors that are currently under development for treatment of cardiovascular diseases. (J Histochem Cytochem 47:447-461, 1999)

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