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J Biol Chem. 1999 Feb 12;274(7):4053-8.

Hydrolysis of peptide hormones by endothelin-converting enzyme-1. A comparison with neprilysin.

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Department of Biochemistry, Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research, Division of Warner-Lambert Company, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105, USA.


Endothelins are peptide hormones with a potent vasoconstrictor activity that are also known to function as intercellular signaling molecules. The final step in the biosynthesis of endothelins is the proteolytic processing of precursor peptides by endothelin-converting enzymes (ECEs). ECE-1 is a zinc metalloendopeptidase related in amino acid sequence to neprilysin, a mammalian cell-surface peptidase involved in the metabolism of numerous biologically active peptides. Despite apparent structural similarities, ECE-1 and neprilysin have been considered to differ significantly in substrate specificity. In this study we have examined the activity of recombinant ECE-1 against a collection of biologically active peptides. ECE-1, unlike neprilysin, was found to have minimal activity against substrates smaller than hexapeptides, such as Leu-enkephalin. Larger peptides such as neurotensin, substance P, bradykinin, and the oxidized insulin B chain were hydrolyzed by ECE-1 as efficiently as big endothelin-1, a known in vivo substrate. Identification of the products of hydrolysis of six peptides indicates that ECE-1 has a substrate specificity similar to that of neprilysin, preferring to cleave substrates at the amino side of hydrophobic residues. The data indicate that ECE-1 possesses a surprisingly broad substrate specificity and is potentially involved in the metabolism of biologically active peptides distinct from the endothelins.

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