The degradation of N-Ac-Ser-Asp-Lys-Pro (AcSDKP), a negative regulator controlling the proliferation of the haematopoietic stem cell, by enzymes present in human plasma, has been investigated. Radiolabelled AcSD[4-3H]KP ([3H]AcSDKP, 1 mM) was completely metabolized in human plasma with a half-life of 80 min, leading exclusively to the formation of radiolabelled lysine. The cleavage of AcSDKP was insensitive to classical proteinase inhibitors including leupeptin, but sensitive to metalloprotease inhibitors. The degradation was completely blocked by specific inhibitors of angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE; kininase II; peptidyldipeptide hydrolase, EC, showing that the first step of the hydrolysis was indeed due to ACE. In dialysed plasma, the hydrolysis proceeded at only 17% of the maximal rate, whereas addition of 20 mM NaCl led to the recovery of the initial rate observed with normal plasma. Hydrolysis of AcSDKP by commercial rabbit lung ACE generated the C-terminal dipeptide Lys-Pro. Thus, ACE cleaves AcSDKP by a dipeptidyl carboxypeptidase activity. In fact the formation of Lys-Pro was observed when AcSDKP was incubated in human plasma in the presence of HgCl2. These results suggest that ACE is involved in the first limiting step of AcSDKP degradation in human plasma. The second step seems to be under the control of a leupeptin- and E-64-insensitive, HgCl2-sensitive plasmatic enzyme.

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