, Volume 22, Issue 8, pp 1033-1040

The Endothelin System and Endothelin-Converting Enzyme in the Brain: Molecular and Cellular Studies

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Abstract

The biologically active vasoactive peptides, the endothelins (ETs), are generated from inactive intermediates, the big endothelins, by a unique processing event catalysed by the zinc metalloprotease, endothelin converting enzyme (ECE). In this overview we examine the actions of endothelins in the brain, and focus on the structure and cellular locations of ECE. The heterogeneous distribution in the brain of ET-1, ET-2, and ET-3 is discussed in relation to their hemodynamic, mitogenic and proliferative properties as well as their possible roles as neurotransmitters. The cellular and subcellular localization of ECE in neuronal and in glial cells is compared with that of other brain membrane metalloproteases, neutral endopeptidase-24.11 (neprilysin), angiotensin converting enzyme and aminopeptidase N, which all function in neuropeptide processing and metabolism. Unlike these ectoenzymes, ECE exhibits a dual localisation in the cell, being present on the plasma membrane and also, in some instances, being concentrated in a perinuclear region. This differential localization may reflect distinct targeting of different ECE isoforms, ECE-lα, ECE-1β, and ECE-2.