Recent gene targeting studies have revealed unexpected roles for endothelins in the development of neural crest-derived tissues. Endothelin converting enzyme-1 (ECE-1) catalyzes the proteolytic activation of big endothelin-1 to endothelin-1(ET-1) in vitro. However, the importance of ECE-1 cleavage in the multiple endothelin pathways in vivo is unknown. Here we generated a targeted null mutation in the mouse ECE-1 gene. ECE-1−/− term embryos exhibited craniofacial and cardiac abnormalities virtually identical to the defects seen in ET-1 and endothelin A receptor (ETA)-deficient embryos. Epidermal melanocytes as well as enteric neurons of the distal gut were also absent in ECE-1−/− embryos, reproducing the developmental phenotype seen in ET-3−/− and endothelin B receptor (ETB)−/− mice. Surprisingly, large amounts of mature ET-1 peptide are found in ECE-1−/− embryos, indicating that non-ECE-1 protease(s) can activate ET-1 at certain sites. However, these enzymes cannot produce sufficient mature endothelin at the locations crucial for normal embryonic development. These findings reveal that ECE-1 is a bona fide activating protease for both big ET-1 and big ET-3 in vivo, and that the cell-cell communication pathways represented by the ET-1/ECE-1/ETA axis and the ET-3/ECE-1/ETB axis are each involved in the development of distinct subsets of neural crest cell lineages. Mutations in ECE-1 may cause developmental defects in humans, such as Hirschsprung disease, velocardiofacial syndrome and related neurocristopathies.
Dual genetic pathways of endothelin-mediated intercellular signaling revealed by targeted disruption of endothelin converting enzyme-1 gene
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H. Yanagisawa, M. Yanagisawa, R.P. Kapur, J.A. Richardson, S.C. Williams, D.E. Clouthier, D. de Wit, N. Emoto, R.E. Hammer; Dual genetic pathways of endothelin-mediated intercellular signaling revealed by targeted disruption of endothelin converting enzyme-1 gene. Development 1 March 1998; 125 (5): 825–836. doi: https://doi.org/10.1242/dev.125.5.825
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