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CJ Charles, MG Nicholls, MT Rademaker and AM Richards

The physiological role of adrenomedullin (ADM) in volume and pressure homeostasis remains unclear. Accordingly, we assessed possible modulatory actions of ADM infusions on the neurohumoral response to acute volume loading with dextran in normal conscious sheep. Dextran (15 ml/kg), given with concurrent ADM (5.5 pmol/kg per min--raising plasma ADM from below detection to approximately 10 pmol/l) or vehicle control infusions, induced matched significant (P<0.001 by ANOVA) falls in hematocrit (27-30%) during both ADM and control and similar increases in right atrial pressure (approximately 10 mmHg). Compared with control, both systemic (P=0.033) and pulmonary (P=0.005) arterial pressure and peripheral resistance (P=0.004) were reduced during ADM but were raised post-infusion. The dextran-induced increase in cardiac output was augmented by ADM (P=0.048). Dextran-induced increases in plasma atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP; P=0.008), brain natriuretic peptide (BNP; P=NS) and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP; P=0.003) were augmented post-ADM infusions. The dextran-induced fall in plasma renin activity (PRA) was attenuated by ADM (P=0.039) whereas plasma aldosterone levels were unaltered. ADM augmented the increase in urinary volume during the second 2-h clearance period post-dextran. Our data indicate that ADM modifies the hemodynamic and hormonal response to an acute volume challenge, enhances natriuretic peptide secretion and reduces systemic vascular resistance. These results provide further evidence that ADM plays a physiological role in volume and pressure homeostasis.

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MW Smith, EA Espiner, TG Yandle, CJ Charles and AM Richards

Metabolism of natriuretic peptides is regulated by two degradative pathways: uptake by the clearance receptor (natriuretic peptide receptor C--NPR-C) and hydrolysis by neutral endopeptidase (NEP). Affinity studies favour a dominant role of NPR-C in hormone degradation in several species but do not account for the efficacy of NEP inhibitors in vivo, nor the uniquely prolonged half life (t((1/2))) of human brain natriuretic peptide (hBNP). Postulating that (1) delayed metabolism of hBNP reflects resistance to NEP and (2) interactions between NPR-C and NEP increase enzyme activity, we have used purified ovine and human NEP, plus ovine lung plasma membranes to study the relative importance of receptor and enzyme pathways. We have also related the findings to hormone metabolism in vivo. Binding affinities of atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), hBNP and ovine BNP (oBNP) to oNPR-C were similar (K(d)=8-16 pM). In contrast, unlike ANP and oBNP, hBNP was not significantly degraded by purified oNEP or plasma membranes. Despite similar (and high) affinity of oNPR-C for oBNP and hBNP, the t((1/2)) of hBNP (12.7 min) was more than fourfold that of oBNP (2.6 min). Although we found no evidence for receptor-enzyme interaction, our results show that the delayed metabolism of hBNP reflects resistance to NEP. These findings have important implications for future treatment strategies in human disease.

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CJ Charles, MT Rademaker, AM Richards and MG Nicholls

Adrenomedullin (ADM) is a novel peptide with actions which include reduction of arterial pressure and interaction with a number of hormone systems. In order to assess possible interactions with the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) and the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, we have examined neurohumoral responses to hypotensive haemorrhage (15 ml/kg over 15 min) with or without co-infusions of ADM (5.5 pmol/kg per min) in six non-pregnant and eight pregnant conscious sheep. Haemorrhage induced a greater decrease in arterial pressure, but a blunted increase in heart rate in pregnant sheep. There was no significant effect of ADM on haemodynamic responses to haemorrhage in either group. In non-pregnant sheep, haemorrhage-induced activation of both RAS and HPA was significantly augmented by ADM, as indicated by greater increases in plasma renin activity (P<0.01), angiotensin II (P<0.05) and arginine vasopressin (P<0.01). In contrast, ADM did not augment these responses to haemorrhage in pregnant sheep. Rather, plasma concentrations of aldosterone (P=0.039) and adrenocorticotrophic hormone (P=0.012) were decreased by ADM. In conclusion, ADM-induced augmentation of the RAS and HPA responses to hypotensive haemorrhage is abolished in the pregnant state.

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CJ Pemberton, TG Yandle, CJ Charles, MT Rademaker, GD Aitken and EA Espiner

Whereas numerous studies have examined the cardiac tissue content and secretion of atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), the response of brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) in states of experimental cardiac overload is less well documented. Our recent partial cloning of the ovine BNP gene has enabled us to study changes in cardiac tissue concentration, together with tissue and circulating molecular forms of ANP and BNP, in response to cardiac overload induced by rapid ventricular pacing (n = 7) and aortic coarctation (n = 6). In normal sheep, although highest levels of BNP were found in atrial tissue (15-fold those of the ventricle), the BNP/ANP concentration ratio in the ventricles was 10- to 20-fold higher than the ratio calculated for atrial tissue. Compared with normal sheep, significant depletion of both ANP and BNP concentrations within the left ventricle occurred after rapid ventricular pacing. Size exclusion and reverse phase HPLC analysis of atrial and ventricular tissue extracts from normal and overloaded sheep showed a single peak of high molecular weight BNP consistent with the proBNP hormone. In contrast, immunoreactive BNP extracted from plasma drawn from the coronary sinus was all low molecular weight material. Further analysis of plasma BNP using ion exchange HPLC disclosed at least 3 distinct immunoreactive peaks consistent with ovine BNP forms 26-29 amino acid residues in length. These findings show that BNP is stored as the prohormone in sheep cardiac tissues and that complete processing to mature forms occurs at the time of secretion. The capacity to process the prohormone at secretion is not impaired by chronic heart failure.