1. We have previously shown that atrial natriuretic peptide causes bronchodilatation and reduces bronchial reactivity when administered intravenously or by inhalation to asthmatic patients. We wished to determine the direct effect of exogenously applied atrial natriuretic peptide on isolated airway and the role of proteases important in atrial natriuretic peptide degradation in other organ systems.
2. The ability of atrial natriuretic peptide (α-human atrial natriuretic peptide 28-amino acid) to relax precontracted tissues and to protect against methacholine-induced contraction was studied in human and bovine tissue. The role of neutral endopeptidase-24.11 and other proteases in regulating the effect of atrial natriuretic peptide on bronchial smooth muscle was also examined by studying the influence of phosphoramidon, a protease inhibitor, whose actions include the inhibition of neutral endopeptidase-24.11, and the protease inhibitors leupeptin, aprotinin and soybean trypsin inhibitor on the airway response to atrial natriuretic peptide.
3. In human and bovine tissue atrial natriuretic peptide (10−6 mol/l) caused a slight relaxation of methacholine-contracted tissue [mean (SEM) percentage inhibition of contraction of 13.2 (3.02)% and 9.41 (2.63)% respectively] and evoked a signficant rightward shift of the cumulative concentration–-response curve to methacholine [pD2 5.15 (0.23) and 4.85 (0.1) compared with control values of 6.14 (0.1) and 5.85 (0.16), respectively].
4. Phosphoramidon potentiated atrial natriuretic peptide-induced relaxation of methacholine-induced tone and the ability of atrial natriuretic peptide to protect against methacholine-induced contraction. The combination of leupeptine, aprotinin and soybean trypsin inhibitor did not significantly alter the bronchial response to atrial natriuretic peptide in either human or bovine tissues.
5. We conclude that in human and bovine tissue, atrial natriuretic peptide confers protection against methacholine-induced contraction and can relax induced tone and that inhibition of phosphoramidon-sensitive protease increases these effects of atrial natriuretic peptide on airway smooth muscle.