1. Brain natriuretic peptide is a new natriuretic hormone with striking similarity to atrial natriuretic peptide, but there are no previous data concerning its clearance in man. Two pathways of clearance for atrial natriuretic peptide are recognized: degradation by neutral endopeptidase and binding to atrial natriuretic peptide clearance receptors. We have examined the effect of candoxatril, an inhibitor of neutral endopeptidase (dose range 10–200 mg), and the effect of an infusion of a pharmacological dose [45 μg (90 μg in two patients)] of synthetic human atrial natriuretic peptide on plasma human brain natriuretic peptide-like immunoreactivity levels in seven patients with mild to moderate chronic heart failure.
2. Plasma human brain natriuretic peptide-like immunoreactivity levels were elevated in all patients (mean ± sem 22.0 ± 6.2 pmol/l) compared with healthy control subjects (1.3 ± 0.2 pmol/l, n = 11).
3. In all patients, candoxatril increased both plasma atrial natriuretic peptide (P < 0.05) and plasma human brain natriuretic peptide-like immunoreactivity (P < 0.05) levels.
4. By contrast, an exogenous infusion of atrial natriuretic peptide had no effect on plasma human brain natriuretic peptide-like immunoreactivity levels despite increasing the plasma atrial natriuretic peptide concentration to 424 ± 74 pmol/l, which is a level of atrial natriuretic peptide which would have ‘swamped’ all atrial natriuretic peptide clearance receptors.
5. We have therefore shown that plasma human brain natriuretic peptide-like immunoreactivity levels in chronic heart failure are increased by a neutral endopeptidase inhibitor, but are unchanged by an exogenous infusion of atrial natriuretic peptide. Our results suggest that in patients with chronic heart failure, degradation by neutral endopeptidase is an important pathway for clearance of brain natriuretic peptide. By an indirect approach, we did not find any evidence of a role for atrial natriuretic peptide clearance receptors in the metabolism of brain natriuretic peptide in these patients. Although this is in agreement with work in vitro, there could be alternative explanations for the lack of a change in circulating human brain natriuretic peptide-like immunoreactivity during exogenous administration of atrial natriuretic peptide.