Reporter 457, 23 October 2000


Enzyme discovery points to new factor in heart disease

New therapeutic targets for treating high blood pressure and other heart conditions are the likely outcome of a discovery in the School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Dr Sarah Tipnis, Dr Nigel Hooper and Professor Tony Turner have found a hitherto unknown enzyme that appears to play an important part in the workings of the heart.


Path to discovery: Sarah Tipnis and Nigel Hooper use an FPLC system to purify protein samples

The new enzyme, termed ACEH, is the first human homologue of the well-characterised angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), which is a key target for anti-hypertensive drugs.

Reporting in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the Leeds group shows for the first time that the enzyme is present in significant levels in the heart and kidney, organs known to be involved in blood pressure regulation, and that it can metabolise the angiotensin hormones that control blood pressure.

In the course of a three-year project funded by the British Heart Foundation, the researchers screened human RNA samples to detect the previously unknown enzyme.

Future work is planned to characterise the biological properties of this novel enzyme, and to determine whether inhibitors of ACEH may provide another line of attack in the treatment of heart disease.

"The ultimate aim of the project is to design inhibitors to treat high blood pressure, heart failure or blood diseases," said Dr Tipnis. "What we have done in vitro points to possible therapeutic applications in the long term."

Professor Turner said the discovery was causing a rethink of how the cardiovascular function is regulated. The newly-discovered enzyme potentially has a major role to play, he believes and not only in the heart.

"It also appears to have a high incidence in the testes and may be very important in male fertility in a way that is not yet understood," said Professor Turner.

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