Circulating prouroguanylin is processed to its active natriuretic form exclusively within the renal tubules

Endocrinology. 2008 Sep;149(9):4499-509. doi: 10.1210/en.2007-1724. Epub 2008 May 22.


The intestine and kidney are linked by a mechanism that increases salt excretion in response to salt intake. The peptide uroguanylin (UGn) is thought to mediate this signaling axis. Therefore, it was surprising to find (as reported in a companion publication) that UGn is stored in the intestine and circulates in the plasma almost exclusively in the form of its biologically inactive propeptide precursor, prouroguanylin (proUGn), and, furthermore, that infused proUGn leads to natriuretic activity. Here, we investigate the fate of circulating proUGn. Kinetic studies show rapid renal clearance of radiolabeled propeptide. Radiolabel accumulates at high specific activity in kidney (relative to other organs) and urine (relative to plasma). The principal metabolites found in kidney homogenates are free cysteine and methionine. In contrast, urine contains cysteine, methionine, and three other radioactive peaks, one comigrating with authentic rat UGn15. Interestingly, proUGn is not converted to these or other metabolites in plasma, indicating that circulating proUGn is not processed before entering the kidney. Therefore, our findings suggest that proUGn is the true endocrine agent released in response to salt intake and that the response of the kidney is dependent on conversion of the propeptide to an active form after it reaches the renal tubules. Furthermore, proUGn metabolites (other than small amounts of cysteine and methionine) are not returned to the circulation from the kidney or any other organ. Thus, to respond to proUGn released from the gut, any target organ must use a local mechanism for production of active peptide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Kidney Tubules / metabolism*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Natriuretic Agents / metabolism
  • Protein Precursors / blood
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism*
  • Protein Precursors / pharmacokinetics
  • Protein Precursors / urine
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sulfur Radioisotopes / pharmacokinetics


  • Natriuretic Agents
  • Protein Precursors
  • Sulfur Radioisotopes
  • prouroguanylin