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Pharmacol Res. 1997 Nov;36(5):339-51.

Highlights on endothelins: a review.

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  • 1Departamento de Farmacología, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, España.


The endothelins (ET) are a family of contractile peptides made up of 21 amino acids. They are synthesised from larger precursors and they are expressed in different tissues. ET-1 is synthesised in endothelial cells by means of a specific endothelin converting enzyme and it is assumed that most of it is secreted into the basolateral compartment. It acts in a paracrine manner on the ETA and ETB2 receptors located on the surface of the vascular smooth muscle to elicit an increase in intracellular calcium and vasoconstriction. The circulating ET-1 can also activate endothelial ETC and ETB1 receptors releasing vascular smooth muscle relaxing factors, such as nitric oxide and prostacyclin. At present, it is generally accepted that ET-1 is a vasodilator in physiological conditions acting on endothelium ETB1 receptors. Nevertheless, in pathological situations such as hypertension, heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, acute renal failure and vasospastic conditions (Raynaud's disease and subarachnoid haemorrhage), ET-1 levels increase and it binds to the receptors present in vascular smooth muscle in such a way that its vasoconstrictor effect is manifested. Currently, experimental and clinical evidence exists to support the importance of the development of drugs that block the production or actions of ET for use in cardiovascular medicine, particularly in conditions in which these peptides are clearly implicated.

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