Enhanced endothelin-converting enzyme immunoreactivity in early atherosclerosis

J. Aaron Grantham, John A. Schirger, Eric E. Williamson, Denise M. Heublein, Paul W. Wennberg, Michael Kirchengast, Klaus Muenter, Thomas Subkowski, John C. Burnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Endothelin-1 (ET-1) is a 21-amino-acid local and circulating factor whose plasma concentrations are increased in advanced atherosclerosis. ET-1 is cleaved from a prohormone (big ET-1) by endothelin-converting enzymes (ECEs) into the biologically active mature form which mediates vasoconstriction and cell proliferation. This study was designed to test by immunohistochemistry the hypothesis that ECE is present locally in the neointima of atherosclerotic vessels. Two groups of rabbits, control (n = 6) and cholesterol-fed (1% cholesterol diet for 8 weeks; n = 6) were sacrificed. Aortas were excised and divided for determination of tissue ET-1 concentration by RIA and immunohistochemical analysis of ECE. Vascular wall ET-1 was increased in the atherosclerotic aorta (6.1 ± 0.8 vs. 9.8 ± 0.9 pg/mg protein; p < 0.05), whereas circulating ET-1 concentrations were similar in the two groups (3.8 ± 0.4 vs. 2.4 ± 1.4 pg/ml). Immunostaining revealed the presence of ECE in endothelial and vascular smooth-muscle cells of the control group. Enhanced ECE immunoreactivity was present in atherosclerotic aortas, particularly in the neointimal macrophages and smooth-muscle cells. We conclude that local vascular wall, but not circulating ET-1, is increased in early atherosclerosis. In addition, ECE immunoreactivity is increased in early atherosclerosis and may therefore contribute to the generation of local ET-1 in early experimental atherosclerosis. These studies provide important insights into the regulation of ET-1 in early atherosclerosis, which may contribute to the elucidation of factors involved in the progression of atherosclerosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S22-S26
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - 1998


  • Humoral factors
  • Peptidases
  • Peptides
  • Vascular remodeling
  • Vasoconstriction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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