Atrial natriuretic peptide immunoreactivity was found in ventricular and atrial tissues with specific antisera raised to the amino and carboxy terminal regions of the precursor molecule. In 13 developing human hearts (7-24 weeks' gestation) the immunoreactivity was concentrated in the atrial myocardium and ventricular conduction system but it was also detected in the early fetal ventricular myocardium. Immunoreactivity in five normal adults was largely confined to the atrial myocardium although it was also found in the ventricular conduction tissues of hearts removed from 10 patients who were undergoing cardiac transplantation. The ventricular conduction system is an extra-atrial site for the synthesis of atrial natriuretic peptide. In the failing heart this synthesis may be further supplemented by expression of the gene in the ventricular myocardium. It is possible that ventricular production of the peptide contributes to the raised circulating concentrations of atrial natriuretic peptide immunoreactivity found in severe congestive heart disease, particularly in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy.
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