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Enkephalin Metabolism by Microglia Aminopeptidase N (CD13)


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Prof. Dr. R. Mentlein at Universität Kiel, Anatomisches Institut, Olshausenstrasse 40, D-24098 Kiel, Germany.


Abstract: Rat microglia in culture showed a high capacity to degrade neuropeptides compared with other glial cells. Leu-enkephalin was readily hydrolyzed to free tyrosine and Gly-Gly-Phe-Leu. Inhibition experiments and immunostaining revealed that aminopeptidase N (CD13) on the surface of microglia was responsible for enkephalin cleavage. Endopeptidase-24.11 (“enkephalinase”), angiotensin-converting enzyme, or carboxypeptidases could not be detected on microglia. Aminopeptidase N activity in microglia was considerably higher than in rat peripheral monocytes and macrophages, which both also exhibited low endopeptidase 24.11 activities. Activity of aminopeptidase N was upregulated by culture of microglia on astrocytes and downregulated by exposure of microglia to lipopolysaccharide. The occurrence of aminopeptidase N on microglia is in line with the view that they originate from the monocytic lineage.