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Biochem J. 2004 Jun 15;380(Pt 3):881-8.

Endothelin-converting enzyme-like 1 (ECEL1) is present both in the plasma membrane and in the endoplasmic reticulum.

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  • 1Département de Biochimie, Faculté de Médecine, Université de Montréal, Montréal, C.P. 6128, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, Qc, Canada H3C 3J7.


Enzymes of the M13 family of zinc-containing endopeptidases are recognized as important regulators of neuropeptide and peptide hormone activity. Peptidases of this family are type II integral-membrane proteins characterized by short cytosolic domains and large extracellular domains containing the active site. The M13 family has, at present, seven members, including ECEL1 (endothelin-converting enzyme-like 1), one of the newest members. ECEL1 is expressed predominantly in the central nervous system. It has been proposed that the enzyme has a role in the nervous regulation of the respiratory system. No physiological substrate has been identified yet. To better understand the function(s) of this enzyme, we have expressed human ECEL1 in cultured cells and monitored its biosynthesis and subcellular localization. Immunoblot and cell-surface biotinylation analysis of transfected cells expressing ECEL1 showed that only a fraction of the protein travelled to the cell surface, while most of the enzyme was present in an intracellular compartment identified by confocal immunofluorescence microscopy and cell fractionation as the ER (endoplasmic reticulum). Pulse-chase experiments showed that ER-localized ECEL1 was stable, with a half-life of more than 3 h. Endogenous ECEL1 from mouse pituitary gland had a similar distribution between the cell surface and the ER. Finally, using domain-swapping experiments with neprilysin, another member of the M13 family, we showed that localization of ECEL1 to the ER requires both the transmembrane and cytoplasmic domains. It thus appears that ECEL1 may have functions both at the cell surface and in the ER.

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