PgPepO is a homologue of endothelin-converting enzyme-1 (ECE-1), with which it shares 31% identity. PgPepO was isolated from the periodontal pathogen Porphyromonas gingivalis. Recent studies have suggested a link between periodontal and cardiovascular disease, and several groups have suggested that bacterial and viral infections may contribute to the latter. P. gingivalis possesses the ability to invade, and multiply within, aortic endothelial cells and has been localized to atherosclerotic plaques. PgPepO was expressed and purified to homogeneity and we have begun detailed functional analysis, in terms of substrate preference and inhibitor specificity, in order to provide active-site comparisons with other members of the neprilysin (NEP)/ECE family. PgPepO possesses similar substrate specificity to ECE-1 and has been shown to cleave big endothelin-1 (big ET-1), big ET-2 and big ET-3, converting the substrates into their respective mature endothelin peptides. Substance P, angiotensin I, angiotensin II and neurotensin are all cleaved at multiple sites by PgPepO and the kinetics of these reactions have been compared. The potent vasoconstrictor urotensin II is not hydrolysed by PgPepO. Cleavage of bradykinin by PgPepO occurs at the Pro7-Phe8 bond and is inhibited by the NEP and ECE-1 inhibitor phosphoramidon in a pH-dependent fashion (IC50 = 10µM at pH 7.0) but not by thiorphan, an NEP-specific inhibitor. PgPepO activity is completely inhibited by EDTA. Characterization of this enzyme is important in elucidating possible links between periodontal pathogens and cardiovascular disorders such as atherosclerosis, and provides an opportunity to gain structural information on a bacterial protein with striking similarity to human ECE-1.

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