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Bleach-producing enzyme found to modulate blood vessel dilation during inflammation

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- An enzyme that stimulates the production of chlorine bleach in cells to kill bacteria and other invading pathogens also turns off a signal that regulates blood vessel dilation during inflammation, researchers at the UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center have found.

The research -- conducted in collaboration with scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, UCLA and the University of Iowa and reported in the June 28 issue of the journal Science -- is important because it identifies a previously unrecognized function for an abundant protein of the immune system and may reveal a new molecular target for the development of drugs to treat a variety of inflammatory vascular diseases.

The bleach-producing enzyme, known as myeloperoxidase, is a green-colored protein found in abundant supply in white blood cells, one of the sentries of the immune system. As white blood cells circulate in the bloodstream and accumulate at sites of infection or injury, they engulf bacteria and other foreign organisms. Just as bleach disinfects kitchens and bathrooms, this enzyme is released from storage sites within the white blood cell to locally produce hypochlorous acid, or chlorine bleach, as a bactericidal agent.

"Myeloperoxidase has been known to be an important component of the immune system," said Jason P. Eiserich, lead author and assistant professor of medicine and human physiology at the UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center. "It is present in very high concentrations in white blood cells and provides an important line of defense against invading micro-organisms. Since neutrophils are also known to contribute to impaired vascular function during acute inflammatory responses, we reasoned that myeloperoxidase may be a central player. Our studies show that myeloperoxidase does affect the vasculature, but by a pathway independent of its well-characterized capacity to produce chlorine bleach."

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Contact: Carole Gan
publicaffairs@ucdavis.edu
916-734-9040
University of California, Davis - Health System
27-Jun-2002


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