MMPs (matrix metalloproteinases) play a major role in the pathogenesis of hypertension by altering the extracellular matrix during cardiovascular remodelling. In the present study we show that MMP-2, but not MMP-9, cleaves the vasodilator peptide AM (adrenomedullin). Addition of the AM-binding protein, complement factor H, prevents this cleavage, providing a hitherto unknown mechanism of action for this binding protein. We identified the signature cleavage fragments and found some of them in human urine, suggesting that MMP-2 processing of AM may occur in vivo. Synthetic AM fragments regulated blood pressure in rats. The larger peptides are vasodilators, as is intact AM, whereas intermediate fragments did not affect blood pressure. In contrast, AM(11–22) elicited vasoconstriction. Studies of AM receptor activation in Rat2 cells confirm that the larger AM cleavage peptides activated this receptor, whereas AM(11–22) did not. The present study defines a new mechanism through which MMP-2 may regulate blood pressure by simultaneously eliminating a vasodilator and generating a vasoconstrictor.

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