In an attempt to understand the significance of endothelin-1 (ET-1) and vasoactive intestinal contractor (VIC)/ET-2 peptides in organs during perinatal development, we performed quantitative analysis of ET-1 and VIC gene expression in mouse organs obtained from embryos at days 14 and 17 (E-14 and E-17) of pregnancy, neonates at days 0, 1, 3 and 7 after birth (N-0, -1, -3 and -7), and adult mice (10 weeks old). In intestine, VIC gene expression progressively increased between E-14 and N-1 (approximately 10-fold) and then remained constant into adulthood. ET-1 gene expression exhibited a one-step increase between E-17 and N-0, subsequently remaining constant. In lung, a sharp increase in ET-1 mRNA level (approximately 10-fold) was noticed between E-14 and N-0. The gene expression pattern of VIC, with a peak at N-0, was similar to that of ET-1 although the expression level of VIC was two to three orders of magnitudes lower than that of ET-1. Gene expression patterns of ET-1 and VIC remained nearly constant in brain, heart, liver and kidney throughout the period examined. Considering that the intestinal and pulmonary gene expression levels of both genes reached almost the same level as observed in adult soon after birth, we suggest that these peptides may be involved in the emergence and maintenance of intestinal and pulmonary functions vital after birth.

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Author notes

The Seventh International Conference on Endothelin was held at the University of Edinburgh, UK, 16-19 September 2001