The cell membrane-associated enzyme CD10/neutral endopeptidase 24.11 (CD10/NEP) functions in multiple organ systems to downregulate responses to peptide hormones. Recently, CD10/NEP was found to hydrolyze bombesin-like peptides (BLP), which are mitogens for normal bronchial epithelial cells and small cell lung carcinomas. Growth of BLP-responsive small cell lung carcinomas was potentiated by CD10/NEP inhibition, implicating CD10/NEP in regulation of BLP-mediated tumor growth. BLP are also likely to participate in normal lung development because high BLP levels are found in fetal lung, and bombesin induces proliferation and maturation of human fetal lung in organ cultures and murine fetal lung in utero. To explore potential roles for CD10/NEP in regulating peptide-mediated human fetal lung development, we have characterized temporal and cellular patterns of CD10/NEP expression and effects of CD10/NEP inhibition in organ cultures. Peak CD10/NEP transcript levels are identified at 11-13 wk gestation by Northern blots and localized to epithelial cells and mesenchyme of developing airways by in situ hybridization. CD10/NEP immunostaining is most intense in undifferentiated airway epithelium. In human fetal lung organ cultures, inhibition of CD10/NEP with either phosphoramidon or SCH32615 increases thymidine incorporation by 166-182% (P < 0.025). The specific BLP receptor antagonist, [Leu13-psi(CH2NH)Leu14]bombesin abolishes these effects on fetal lung growth, suggesting that CD10/NEP modulates BLP-mediated proliferation. CD10/NEP expression in the growing front of airway epithelium and the effects of CD10/NEP inhibitors in lung explants implicate the enzyme in the regulation of peptide-mediated fetal lung growth.
M E Sunday, J Hua, J S Torday, B Reyes, M A Shipp