Endothelin-converting enzymes degrade α-synuclein and are reduced in dementia with Lewy bodies

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We have examined the roles of the endothelin-converting enzyme-1 and -2 (ECE-1 and ECE-2) in the homeostasis of α-synuclein (α-syn) and pathogenesis of Lewy body disease. The ECEs are named for their ability to convert inactive big endothelin to the vasoactive peptide endothelin-1 (EDN1). We have found that ECE-1 and ECE-2 cleave and degrade α-syn in vitro and siRNA-mediated knockdown of ECE-1 and ECE-2 in SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells significantly increased α-syn both intracellularly (within the cell lysate) (P < 0.05 for both ECE-1 and -2) and extracellularly (in the surrounding medium) (P < 0.05 for ECE-1 and P = 0.07 for ECE-2). Double immunofluorescent labelling showed co-localisation of ECE-1 and ECE-2 with α-syn within the endolysosomal system (confirmed by a proximity ligation assay). To assess the possible relevance of these findings to human Lewy body disease, we measured ECE-1 and ECE-2 levels by sandwich ELISA in post-mortem samples of cingulate cortex (a region with a predilection for Lewy body pathology) in dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and age-matched controls. ECE-1 (P < 0.001) and ECE-2 (P < 0.01) levels were significantly reduced in DLB and both enzymes correlated inversely with the severity of Lewy body pathology as indicated by the level of α-syn phosphorylated at Ser129 (r = -0.54, P < 0.01 for ECE-1 and r = -0.49, P < 0.05 for ECE-2). Our novel findings suggest a role for ECEs in the metabolism of α-syn that could contribute to the development and progression of DLB.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-286
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number2
Early online date29 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2017


  • Endothelin-converting enzyme
  • ECE-1
  • ECE-2
  • α-synuclein
  • dementia with Lewy bodies


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