Immunoreactive amino-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-PROBNP): a new marker of cardiac impairment

P J Hunt, A M Richards, M G Nicholls, T G Yandle, R N Doughty, E A Espiner
Clinical Endocrinology 1997, 47 (3): 287-96

OBJECTIVE: Human brain natriuretic peptide-32 (BNP) (i.e. proBNP(77-108)), the mature form of BNP and secreted predominantly by the cardiac ventricle, is formed from a high molecular weight precursor, proBNP(1-108). We have recently identified the aminoterminal form proBNP(1-76) (NT-proBNP) in human plasma but its source, metabolism and production in circulatory disorders are unknown. We have investigated the relationship between immunoreactive (IR) NT-proBNP and BNP-32 in normal and hypertensive subjects and in patients with cardiac impairment, as well as the regional plasma concentrations in patients undergoing routine cardiac catheterization.

DESIGN AND PATIENTS: Plasma hormone measurements were made in 26 normal subjects, 20 subjects with untreated mild hypertension and 111 treated patients with a history of coronary heart disease and documented cardiac impairment (left ventricular election fraction (LVEF) < 45% (mean 29%); 25 NYHA Class I, 65 Class II and 21 Class III). Regional blood sampling from the femoral artery, femoral vein, renal vein and coronary sinus was undertaken in 14 patients presenting for left and right cardiac catheterization studies in the course of standard investigation for a range of cardiac disorders.

MEASUREMENTS: Plasma samples were assayed for IR NT-proBNP and IR BNP-32 (and atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) in the regional blood samples). In the patients with cardiac impairment, LVEF was determined by gated radionuclide ventriculography, exercise capacity was measured using a modified Naughton multistage protocol and creatinine clearance was calculated from plasma creatinine, age and weight. In the regional study, extraction ratios across the kidney and lower limb (and step-ups across the heart) were calculated from plasma peptide concentrations.

RESULTS: In normal subjects mean IR NT-proBNP levels (10.8 +/- 1.3 pmol/L) were similar to levels of IR BNP-32 (9.7 +/- 0.5 pmol/L). In hypertensive patients the levels of IR NT-proBNP and IR BNP-32 tended to be higher than but were not significantly different from normal subjects. Both IR NT-proBNP and IR BNP-32 were raised in NYHA Classes I, II and III compared with normals (P < 0.001 for all) with higher levels of both BNP forms seen with increasing cardiac impairment. The levels of IR NT-proBNP were greater than IR BNP-32 in all NYHA Classes (P < 0.001) for all). Overall, the levels of IR NT-proBNP (129 +/- 12 pmol/L) were 4-fold higher than concomitant BNP-32 levels (29 +/- 2 pmol/L). Multivariate analysis showed that LVEF, exercise test time and creatinine clearance were independent predictors of IR NT-proBNP. In all study groups, the levels of IR NT-proBNP and IR BNP-32 levels were highly correlated. Regional plasma sampling showed similar step-ups in IR NT-proBNP and IR BNP-32 levels across the heart, together with similar extraction of both BNP forms across the kidney and lower limb. For both BNP forms, these changes across tissues were significantly less than for ANP.

CONCLUSIONS: Plasma levels of immunoreactive amino terminal-proBNP are raised in cardiac impairment, including NYHA Class I, and rise with increasing cardiac decompensation. Metabolism and tissue uptake of immunoreactive amino terminal-proBNP and immunoreactive BNP-32 appear similar. In cardiac impairment the proportional and absolute increment above normal levels of the aminoterminal BNP peptide exceeds that for BNP-32 and suggest that amino terminal-proBNP may be a more discerning marker of early cardiac dysfunction than BNP-32.

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