BACKGROUND: Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) metabolizes many small peptides and plays a key role in blood pressure regulation. Elevated serum ACE is claimed to be associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Previously, two families with dramatically increased serum ACE were described, but no systematic survey of affected individuals was performed, and the molecular background of this trait is unknown. METHODS AND RESULTS: Eight families were identified with autosomal dominant inheritance of a dramatic (5-fold) increase of serum ACE activity. Strikingly, no clinical abnormalities were apparent in the affected subjects. Isolated blood cells were used for genetic and biochemical analysis. The level of ACE expression on the blood leukocytes and dendritic cells and total cell-associated ACE of the affected individuals was similar to that in nonaffected relatives; however membrane-bound mutant ACE was much more efficiently clipped from the cell surface compared with its wild-type counterpart. A point mutation causing Pro1199Leu in the stalk region of the ACE molecule cosegregates with the increase in serum ACE (LOD score, 6.63). CONCLUSIONS: A point mutation in the stalk region of the ACE protein causes increased shedding, leading to increased serum ACE, whereas cell-bound ACE is unaltered, and affected individuals exhibit no clinical abnormalities. These findings qualify the importance of serum ACE and establish a new determinant of ACE solubilization.

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Circulation (Baltimore)
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam