Diseases which have been demonstrated to be caused by increased plasma levels of bradykinin all have angioedema as the common major clinical manifestation. Angioedema due to therapy with angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors is caused by suppressed bradykinin degradation so that it accumulates. This occurs because ACE metabolizes bradykinin by removal of Phe-Arg from the C-terminus, which inactivates it. By contrast, angioedema due to C1 inhibitor deficiency (either hereditary types I and II, or acquired) is caused by bradykinin overproduction. C1 inhibitor inhibits factor XIIa, kallikrein and activity associated with the prekallikrein-HK (high-molecular-weight kininogen) complex. In its absence, uncontrolled activation of the plasma bradykinin cascade is seen once there has been an initiating stimulus. C4 levels are low in all types of C1 inhibitor deficiency due to the instability of C1 (C1r, in particular) such that some activated C1 always circulates and depletes C4. In the hereditary disorder, formation of factor XIIf (factor XII fragment) during attacks of swelling causes C4 levels to drop toward zero, and C2 levels decline. A kinin-like molecule, once thought to be a cleavage product derived from C2 that contributes to the increased vascular permeability seen in hereditary angioedema (HAE), is now thought to be an artifact, i.e. no such molecule is demonstrable. The acquired C1 inhibitor deficiency is associated with clonal disorders of B cell hyperreactivity, including lymphoma and monoclonal gammopathy. Most cases have an IgG autoantibody to C1 inhibitor which inactivates it so that the presentation is strikingly similar to type I HAE. New therapies for types I and II HAE include C1 inhibitor replacement therapy, ecallantide, a kallikrein antagonist, and icatibant, a B2 receptor antagonist. A newly described type III HAE has normal C1 inhibitor, although it is thought to be mediated by bradykinin, as is an antihistamine-resistant subpopulation of patients with ‘idiopathic’ angioedema. The mechanism(s) for the formation of bradykinin in these disorders is unknown.Copyright © 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel.
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