To elucidate the physiological and pathophysiological significance of methionine- and leucine-enkephalin (Met-and Leu-enkephalin, respectively) in human sympathoadrenal system, the contents of these peptides in normal human sympathetic nervous system, adrenal medulla, and pheochromocytomas were determined by specific radioimmunoassays combined with reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. Met-enkephalin-LI and Leu-enkephalin-LI, respectively) were detected by radioimmunoassay in adrenal glands, adrenal medulla, stellate ganglia, sympathetic trunks, and celiac ganglia, and their contents in adrenal medulla were highest. Existence of authentic Met- and Leu-enkephalin was confirmed by reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. Met-enkephalin was approximately 74% of Met-enkephalin-LI, whereas Leu-enkephalin was approximately 30% of Leu-enkephalin-LI in human adrenal medulla. The ratio of Met- to Leu-enkephalin was 2.6 in human adrenal medulla, whereas it was higher in sympathetic ganglia or trunks. In four cases of pheochromocytoma marked difference in Met- and Leu-enkephalin contents was found between medullary and extramedullary tumors. The contents were about three orders higher and the Met- to Leu-enkephalin ratio was lower in medullary than in extramedullary pheochromocytomas, reflecting the tissues where the tumors arose. These results suggest the physiological roles of Met- and Leu-enkephalin in sympathetic nervous system and adrenal glands and their pathophysiological significances in pheochromocytomas.


T Yoshimasa, K Nakao, H Ohtsuki, S Li, H Imura


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