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J Hypertens. 2003 Nov;21(11):2111-24.

Regulation of the major isoform of human endothelin-converting enzyme-1 by a strong housekeeping promoter modulated by polymorphic microsatellites.

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Institute of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, Charité - Campus Benjamin Franklin, Berlin, Germany.



Human endothelin-converting enzyme (ECE)-1, the key enzyme in endothelin biosynthesis, shows broad cell and tissue expression within the cardiovascular system. Expression of ECE-1c, which represents the major ECE-1 isoform, is directed by an alternative promoter, but the mechanisms of ECE-1c promoter regulation are largely unknown. As ECE-1c transcription is initiated from several start sites, we hypothesized that the ECE-1c promoter functions as a housekeeping promoter.


To investigate the putative housekeeping function of the ECE-1c promoter in vascular endothelial cells, which represent a main site of its expression.


Using promoter reporter assays, gel shift and supershift assays, we have demonstrated, in human endothelial EA.hy926 cells, functionality of cis-acting elements for binding of the CAAT-box binding protein NF-YB, GATA-2) E2F-2, and a GC-box binding factor, which are spatially associated with transcriptional start sites of ECE-1c. In the more upstream promoter region we have identified three highly polymorphic dinucleotide repeats, 5'-(CA)n, (CG)n and 3'-(CA)n, which strongly affected promoter function in endothelial EA.hy926 cells (2.7-fold activation comparing the most active to the least active allele) and, in a similar manner, in human neuronal KELLY cells. Finally, by in-vitro methylation, we were able to achieve strong suppression of the ECE-1c promoter activity in endothelial cells.


Our results provide a molecular explanation for constitutive expression of ECE-1c mRNA. Modulation by genetic and epigenetic mechanisms as revealed in our study may account for interindividual variation of the constitutive endothelin system activity in humans and thus influence individual predisposition to cardiovascular disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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