1. In this study, we sought to determine the effect of endopeptidase 24.11 inhibition on the rate of metabolism of vasoactive intestinal peptide. The effect of such inhibition on the concentration of vasoactive intestinal peptide in two tissues was also investigated.

2. Male Sprague—Dawley rats were given the endopeptidase 24.11 blocker UK77,568 (10 mg/kg) or vehicle as a single intravenous injection or as a daily injection for 4 days. Two hours after the final or single injection, the rats were anaesthetized and blood was sampled to determine plasma concentrations of vasoactive intestinal peptide and angiotensin II. The hearts and kidneys were harvested and snap-frozen in liquid nitrogen. The plasma and tissue concentrations of vasoactive intestinal peptide and the plasma concentration of angiotensin II were determined by radioimmunoassay. In a separate group of experiments, male Sprague—Dawley rats were anaesthetized and carotid and jugular catheters were inserted. One hour after intravenous administration of UK77,568 or vehicle, an infusion of vasoactive intestinal peptide (10 pmol min−1 kg−1) was commenced via the jugular catheter. Blood was sampled to determine the vasoactive intestinal peptide concentration 1 h after commencing the vasoactive intestinal peptide infusion to calculate the metabolic clearance rate.

3. Plasma vasoactive intestinal peptide increased after acute (P < 0.05) but not chronic administration of UK77,568, while the concentration of vasoactive intestinal peptide in the heart increased after chronic administration (P < 0.0005). The concentration of vasoactive intestinal peptide in the kidney was unchanged after both acute and chronic endopeptidase 24.11 blockade. Plasma angiotensin II decreased significantly in the chronic group (P < 0.05). The metabolic clearance rate of vasoactive intestinal peptide decreased significantly after UK77,568 administration (P < 0.05).

4. These studies add to the existing indirect evidence that endopeptidase 24.11 may metabolize vasoactive intestinal peptide in addition to a number of other hormones.

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