Regulation of cardiovascular system activity involves complex interactions amongst numerous factors. Three of these vasoactive factors are adrenomedullin, C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) and endothelin-1 (ET-1), each of which is claimed to have important local effects. To investigate paracrine/autocrine regulation of the secretion of these peptides we used a cell immunoblot method. We postulated that basal release of adrenomedullin and CNP by endothelial cells is modulated by ET-1. Dispersed human aortic endothelial cells were attached to a protein binding membrane and incubated for 1 or 4 h with control medium or with ET-1, endothelin receptor antagonists or antibody to ET-1, and then submitted to immunohistochemical staining. Peptides (adrenomedullin, CNP and ET-1) within individual cells were stained, as was peptide secreted and adjacent to the cell. It was demonstrated that adrenomedullin, CNP and ET-1 can be contained within the same cell. In addition, we observed that individual endothelial cells can secrete all three peptides. The endothelin ET-A/ET-B receptor antagonist, bosentan, the ET-B receptor antagonist, BQ-788, and anti-ET-1 serum decreased the percentage of endothelial cells that secreted adrenomedullin and CNP relative to control. Conversely, the addition of ET-1 induced an increase in the number of endothelial cells that secreted adrenomedullin and CNP. These results provide strong evidence that endogenous ET-1, from human vascular endothelial cells, acts in a paracrine/autocrine manner to modulate the basal release of adrenomedullin and CNP. Our observations of this modulation suggest that vascular endothelial cells of humans constitute an important component of a self-responsive vasoregulatory system.
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