MECHANISMS & EFFECTS OF EICOSANOIDS
As a result of their short half-lives, the eicosanoids act mainly in an autocrine and a paracrine fashion, ie, close to the site of their synthesis, and not as circulating hormones. These ligands bind to receptors on the cell surface, with pharmacologic specificity determined by receptor density and type on different cells (Figure 18–4). A single gene product has been identified for each of the PGI2 (IP), PGF2α (FP), and TXA2 (TP) receptors, while four distinct PGE2 receptors (EPs 1–4) and two PGD2 receptors (DP1 and DP2) have been cloned. Additional isoforms of the human TP (α and β), FP (A and B), and EP3 (Ia, Ib, Ic, II, III, IV, and e) receptors can arise through differential mRNA splicing. Two receptors exist for LTB4 (BLT1 and BLT2) and for LTC4/LTD4 (cysLT1 and cysLT2). It appears that LTE4 functions through one or more receptors distinct from cysLT1/cysLT2, with some evidence that the orphan receptor GPR99 and the ADP receptor P2Y12 may function as LTE4 receptors. The formyl peptide (fMLP)-1 receptor can be activated by lipoxin A4 and consequently has been termed the ALX receptor. Receptor heterodimerization has been reported for a number of the eicosanoid receptors, providing for additional receptor subtypes from the currently identified gene products. All of these receptors are G protein-coupled; properties of the best-studied receptors are listed in Table 18–1.
TABLE 18–1Eicosanoid receptors.1 ||Download (.pdf) TABLE 18–1 Eicosanoid receptors.1
|Receptor (Human) ||Endogenous Ligand ||Secondary Ligands ||G Protein; Second Messenger ||Major Phenotype(s) in Knockout Mice |
|DP1 ||PGD2 || ||Gs; ↑cAMP ||↓Allergic asthma |
| || || || ||↑Inflammatory cardiovascular disease, hypertension, thrombosis |
|DP2 ||PGD2 ||15d-PGJ2 ||Gi; ↑Ca2+i, ↓cAMP ||↑Allergic airway inflammation |
| || || || ||↓Cutaneous inflammation |
|EP1 ||PGE2 ||PGI2 ||Gq; ↑Ca2+i ||↓Colon carcinogenesis |
|EP2 ||PGE2 || ||Gs; ↑cAMP ||Impaired fertilization |
| || || || ||Salt-sensitive hypertension |
| || || || ||↓Tumorgenesis |
|EP3 I, II, III, IV, V, VI, e, f ||PGE2 || ||Gi; ↓cAMP, ↑Ca2+i ||Resistance to pyrogens |
| || || ||Gs; ↑cAMP ||↓Acute cutaneous inflammation |
| || || ||Gq; ↑PLC, ↑Ca2+i ||↑Allergic airway inflammation |
| || || ||G12/13; Rho activation ||Obesity |
|EP4 ||PGE2 || ||Gs; ↑cAMP ||↑Myocardial infarction severity |
| || || || ||↑Intestinal inflammatory/immune response |
| || || || ||↓Colon carcinogenesis |
| || || || ||Patent ductus arteriosus |
|FPA,B ||PGF2α ||isoPs ||Gq; ↑PLC, ↑Ca2+i ||Parturition failure |
| || || ||G12/13; Rho activation ||↓Basal blood pressure; ↑Vasopressor response |
| || || || ||↓Atherosclerosis |
|IP ||PGl2 ||PGE2 ||Gs; ↑cAMP ||↑Thrombotic response |
| || || || ||↑Response to vascular injury |
| || || || ||↑Atherosclerosis |
| || || || ||↑Cardiac fibrosis |
| || || || ||Salt-sensitive hypertension |
|TPα,β ||TXA2 ||isoPs ||Gq,G12/13,G16; ↑PLC, ↑Ca2+i, Rho activation ||↑Bleeding time |
| || || || ||↓Response to vascular injury |
| || || || ||↓Atherosclerosis |
| || || || ||↑Survival after cardiac allograft |
|BLT1 ||LTB4 || ||G16,Gi; ↑Ca2+i, ↓cAMP ||Inflammatory responses |
| || || || ||↓Insulin resistance in obesity |
|BLT2 ||LTB4 ||12(S)-HETE ||Gq-like, Gi-like, G12-like, ↑Ca2+i ||↓inflammatory arthritis |
| || ||12(R)-HETE || ||↑Experimental colitis |
|CysLT1 ||LTD4 ||LTC4/LTE4 ||Gq; ↑PLC, ↑Ca2+i ||↓Innate and adaptive immune vascular permeability response |
| || || || ||↑Pulmonary inflammatory and fibrotic response |
|CysLT2 ||LTC4/LTD4 ||LTE4 ||Gq; ↑PLC, ↑Ca2+i ||↓Pulmonary inflammatory and fibrotic response |
Prostanoid receptors and their signaling pathways. fMLP, formylated MetLeuPhe, a small peptide receptor; PLC-β, phospholipase C-β. All of the receptors shown are of the seven-transmembrane, G protein-coupled type. The terms “relaxant,” “contractile,” and “inhibitory” refer to the phylogenetic characterization of their primary effects. **, all EP3 isoforms couple through Gi but some can also activate Gs or G12/13 pathways. RhoGEF, rho guanine nucleotide exchange factor. See text for additional details.
EP2, EP4, IP, and DP1 receptors activate adenylyl cyclase via Gs. This leads to increased intracellular cAMP levels, which in turn activate specific protein kinases (see Chapter 2). EP1, FP, and TP activate phosphatidylinositol metabolism, leading to the formation of inositol trisphosphate, with subsequent mobilization of Ca2+ stores and an increase of free intracellular Ca2+. TP also couples to multiple G proteins, including G12/13 and G16, to stimulate small G protein signaling pathways, and may activate or inhibit adenylyl cyclase via Gs (TPα) or Gi (TPβ), respectively. EP3 isoforms can couple to both increased intracellular calcium and to increased or decreased cAMP. The DP2 receptor (also known as the chemoattractant receptor-homologous molecule expressed on TH2 cells, or CRTH2), which is unrelated to the other prostanoid receptors, is a member of the fMLP receptor superfamily. This receptor couples through a Gi-type G protein and leads to inhibition of cAMP synthesis and increases in intracellular Ca2+ in a variety of cell types.
LTB4 also causes inositol trisphosphate release via the BLT1 receptor, causing activation, degranulation, and superoxide anion generation in leukocytes. The BLT2 receptor, a low-affinity receptor for LTB4, is also bound with reasonable affinity by 12(S)- and 12(R)-HETE, although the biologic relevance of this observation is not clear. CysLT1 and cysLT2 couple to Gq, leading to increased intracellular Ca2+. Studies have also placed Gi downstream of cysLT2. An orphan receptor, GPR17, binds cysLTs and may negatively regulate the function of cysLT1, but its physiologic role remains ill defined. As noted above, the EETs promote vasodilation via paracrine activation of calcium-activated potassium channels on smooth muscle cells leading to hyperpolarization and relaxation. This occurs in a manner consistent with activation of a Gs-coupled receptor, although a specific EET receptor has yet to be identified. EETs may also act in an autocrine manner directly activating endothelial transient receptor potential channels to cause endothelial hyperpolarization, which is then transferred to the smooth muscle cells by gap junctions or potassium ions. Specific receptors for isoprostanes have not been identified, and the biologic importance of their capacity to act as incidental ligands at prostaglandin receptors remains to be established.
Although prostanoids can activate peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) if added in sufficient concentration in vitro, it remains questionable whether these compounds ever attain concentrations sufficient to function as endogenous nuclear-receptor ligands in vivo.
Effects of Prostaglandins & Thromboxanes
The prostaglandins and thromboxanes have major effects on smooth muscle in the vasculature, airways, and gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts. Contraction of smooth muscle is mediated by the release of calcium, while relaxing effects are mediated by the generation of cAMP. Many of the eicosanoids’ contractile effects on smooth muscle can be inhibited by lowering extracellular calcium or by using calcium channel-blocking drugs. Other important targets include platelets and monocytes, kidneys, the central nervous system, autonomic presynaptic nerve terminals, sensory nerve endings, endocrine organs, adipose tissue, and the eye (the effects on the eye may involve smooth muscle).
1. Vascular— TXA2 is a potent vasoconstrictor. It is also a smooth muscle cell mitogen and is the only eicosanoid that has convincingly been shown to have this effect. The mitogenic effect is potentiated by exposure of smooth muscle cells to testosterone, which up-regulates smooth muscle cell TP expression. PGF2α is also a vasoconstrictor but is not a smooth muscle mitogen. Another vasoconstrictor is the isoprostane 8-iso-PGF2α, also known as iPF2αIII, which may act via the TP receptor.
Vasodilator prostaglandins, especially PGI2 and PGE2, promote vasodilation by increasing cAMP and decreasing smooth muscle intracellular calcium, primarily via the IP and EP4 receptors. Vascular PGI2 is synthesized by both smooth muscle and endothelial cells, with the COX-2 isoform in the latter cell type being the major contributor. In the microcirculation, PGE2 is a vasodilator produced by endothelial cells. PGI2 inhibits proliferation of smooth muscle cells, an action that may be particularly relevant in pulmonary hypertension. PGD2 may also function as a vasodilator, in particular as a dominant mediator of flushing induced by the lipid-lowering drug niacin.
2. Gastrointestinal tract—Most of the prostaglandins and thromboxanes activate gastrointestinal smooth muscle. Longitudinal muscle is contracted by PGE2 (via EP3) and PGF2α (via FP), whereas circular muscle is contracted strongly by PGF2α and weakly by PGI2, and is relaxed by PGE2 (via EP4). Administration of either PGE2 or PGF2α results in colicky cramps (see Clinical Pharmacology of Eicosanoids, below). The leukotrienes also have powerful contractile effects.
3. Airways—Respiratory smooth muscle is relaxed by PGE2 and PGI2 and contracted by PGD2, TXA2, and PGF2α. Studies of DP1 and DP2 receptor knockout mice suggest an important role of this prostanoid in asthma, although the DP2 receptor appears more relevant to allergic airway diseases. The cysteinyl leukotrienes are also bronchoconstrictors. They act principally on smooth muscle in peripheral airways and are a thousand times more potent than histamine, both in vitro and in vivo. They also stimulate bronchial mucus secretion and cause mucosal edema. Bronchospasm occurs in about 10% of people taking NSAIDs, possibly because of a shift in arachidonate metabolism from COX metabolism to leukotriene formation.
4. Reproductive—The actions of prostaglandins on reproductive smooth muscle are discussed below under section D, Reproductive Organs.
Platelet aggregation is markedly affected by eicosanoids. PGI2, a major product of endothelial-derived COX-2, is a potent inhibitor of platelet aggregation. This inhibition occurs via an IP receptor-dependent elevation in Gs activity and cAMP. Dysfunctional genetic variants in the human prostacyclin receptor as well as drug inhibition of COX-2 (reducing prostacyclin signaling and production, respectively) lead to increased platelet activation and aggregation. This has recently been demonstrated to have major implications regarding adverse cardiovascular events, as described below (see Inhibition of Eicosanoid Synthesis). TXA2 is the major product of platelet COX-1, the only COX isoform expressed in mature platelets, with COX-1-derived PGD2 found in lesser amounts. TXA2 is a powerful inducer of platelet aggregation. TXA2 additionally amplifies the effects of other, more potent, platelet agonists such as thrombin. The TP-Gq signaling pathway elevates intracellular Ca2+ and activates protein kinase C, facilitating platelet aggregation and TXA2 biosynthesis. Activation of G12/G13 induces Rho/Rho-kinase–dependent regulation of myosin light chain phosphorylation leading to platelet shape change. Mutations in the human TP have been associated with mild bleeding disorders. The platelet actions of TXA2 are restrained in vivo by PGI2, which inhibits platelet aggregation by all recognized agonists, and PGD2. Platelet COX-1-derived TXA2 biosynthesis is increased during platelet activation and aggregation and is irreversibly inhibited by chronic administration of aspirin at low doses. Urinary metabolites of TXA2 increase in clinical syndromes of platelet activation, such as diabetes mellitus, and particularly in patients with myocardial infarction and stroke. Macrophage COX-2 appears to contribute roughly 10% of the increment in TXA2 biosynthesis observed in smokers, while the rest is derived from platelet COX-1. A variable contribution, presumably from macrophage COX-2, may be insensitive to the effects of low-dose aspirin. In a single trial comparing low- and high-dose aspirin, no increase in benefit was associated with increased dose; in fact, this study, as well as indirect comparisons across placebo-controlled trials, suggests an inverse dose-response relationship, perhaps reflecting increasing inhibition of PGI2 synthesis at higher doses of aspirin. Low concentrations of PGE2 enhance (via EP3 receptors), whereas higher concentrations inhibit (via IP receptors), platelet aggregation. PGD2 inhibits aggregation via DP1, leading to increased cAMP generation.
Both the medulla and the cortex of the kidney synthesize prostaglandins, the medulla substantially more than the cortex. COX-1 is expressed mainly in cortical and medullary collecting ducts and mesangial cells, arteriolar endothelium, and epithelial cells of Bowman’s capsule. COX-2 is restricted to the renal medullary interstitial cells, the macula densa, and the cortical thick ascending limb.
The major renal eicosanoid products are PGE2 and PGI2, followed by PGF2α and TXA2. The kidney also synthesizes several hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acids, leukotrienes, cytochrome P450 products, and epoxides. Prostaglandins play important roles in maintaining blood pressure and regulating renal function, particularly in marginally functioning kidneys and volume-contracted states. Under these circumstances, renal cortical COX-2-derived PGE2 and PGI2 maintain renal blood flow and glomerular filtration rate through their local vasodilating effects. These prostaglandins also modulate systemic blood pressure through regulation of water and sodium excretion. Expression of medullary COX-2 and mPGES-1 is increased under conditions of high salt intake. COX-2-derived prostanoids increase medullary blood flow and inhibit tubular sodium reabsorption, while COX-1-derived products promote salt excretion in the collecting ducts. Increased water clearance probably results from an attenuation of the action of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) on adenylyl cyclase. Loss of these effects may underlie the systemic or salt-sensitive hypertension often associated with COX inhibition. A common misperception—often articulated in discussion of the cardiovascular toxicity of drugs such as rofecoxib—is that hypertension secondary to NSAID administration is somehow independent of the inhibition of prostaglandins. Loop diuretics, eg, furosemide, produce some of their effect by stimulating COX activity. In the normal kidney, this increases the synthesis of the vasodilator prostaglandins. Therefore, patient response to a loop diuretic is diminished if a COX inhibitor is administered concurrently (see Chapter 15).
There is an additional layer of complexity associated with the effects of renal prostaglandins. In contrast to the medullary enzyme, cortical COX-2 expression is increased by low salt intake, leading to increased renin release. This elevates glomerular filtration rate and contributes to enhanced sodium reabsorption and a rise in blood pressure. PGE2 is thought to stimulate renin release through activation of EP4 or EP2. PGI2 can also stimulate renin release and this may be relevant to maintenance of blood pressure in volume-contracted conditions and to the pathogenesis of renovascular hypertension. Inhibition of COX-2 may reduce blood pressure in these settings.
TXA2 causes intrarenal vasoconstriction (and perhaps an ADH-like effect), resulting in a decline in renal function. The normal kidney synthesizes only small amounts of TXA2. However, in renal conditions involving inflammatory cell infiltration (such as glomerulonephritis and renal transplant rejection), the inflammatory cells (monocyte-macrophages) release substantial amounts of TXA2. Theoretically, TXA2 synthase inhibitors or receptor antagonists should improve renal function in these patients, but no such drug is clinically available. Hypertension is associated with increased TXA2 and decreased PGE2 and PGI2 synthesis in some animal models, eg, the Goldblatt kidney model. It is not known whether these changes are primary contributing factors or secondary responses. PGF2α may elevate blood pressure by regulating renin release in the kidney. Although more research is necessary, FP antagonists have potential as novel antihypertensive drugs.
1. Female reproductive organs—Animal studies demonstrate a role for PGE2 and PGF2α in early reproductive processes such as ovulation, luteolysis, and fertilization. Uterine muscle is contracted by PGF2α, TXA2, and low concentrations of PGE2; PGI2 and high concentrations of PGE2 cause relaxation. PGF2α, together with oxytocin, is essential for the onset of parturition. PGI2 also assists in promoting uterine smooth muscle cell maturation. The effects of prostaglandins on uterine function are discussed below (see Clinical Pharmacology of Eicosanoids).
2. Male reproductive organs—Despite the discovery of prostaglandins in seminal fluid, the role of prostaglandins in semen is still conjectural. The major source of these prostaglandins is the seminal vesicle; the prostate, despite the name “prostaglandin,” and the testes synthesize only small amounts. The factors that regulate the concentration of prostaglandins in human seminal plasma are not known in detail, but testosterone does promote prostaglandin production. Thromboxane and leukotrienes have not been found in seminal fluid. Men with a low seminal fluid concentration of prostaglandins are relatively infertile.
Smooth muscle-relaxing prostaglandins such as PGE1 enhance penile erection by relaxing the smooth muscle of the corpora cavernosa (see Clinical Pharmacology of Eicosanoids).
E. Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems
1. Fever—PGE2 increases body temperature, predominantly via EP3, although EP1 also plays a role, especially when administered directly into the cerebral ventricles. Exogenous PGF2α and PGI2 induce fever, whereas PGD2 and TXA2 do not. Endogenous pyrogens release interleukin-1, which in turn promotes the synthesis and release of PGE2. This synthesis is blocked by aspirin, other antipyretic NSAIDs, and acetaminophen.
2. Sleep—When infused into the cerebral ventricles, PGD2 induces natural sleep (as determined by electroencephalographic analysis) via activation of DP1 receptors and secondary release of adenosine. PGE2 infusion into the posterior hypothalamus causes wakefulness.
3. Neurotransmission—PGE compounds inhibit the release of norepinephrine from postganglionic sympathetic nerve endings. Moreover, NSAIDs increase norepinephrine release in vivo, suggesting that the prostaglandins play a physiologic role in this process. Thus, vasoconstriction observed during treatment with COX inhibitors may be due, in part, to increased release of norepinephrine as well as to inhibition of the endothelial synthesis of the vasodilators PGE2 and PGI2. PGE2 and PGI2 sensitize the peripheral nerve endings to painful stimuli. PGE2 acts via EP1 and EP4 receptors to potentiate excitatory cation channel activity and inhibit hyperpolarizing K+ channel activity, thereby increasing membrane excitability. Prostaglandins also modulate pain centrally. Both COX-1 and COX-2 are expressed in the spinal cord and release prostaglandins in response to peripheral pain stimuli. PGE2, and perhaps also PGD2, PGI2, and PGF2α, contribute to so-called central sensitization, an increase in excitability of spinal dorsal horn neurons, that augments pain intensity, widens the area of pain perception, and results in pain from normally innocuous stimuli. PGE2 acts on the EP2 receptor to facilitate presynaptic release of excitatory neurotransmitters and block inhibitory glycinergic neurotransmission as well as postsynaptically to enhance excitatory neurotransmitter receptor activity.
F. Inflammation and Immunity
PGE2 and PGI2 are the predominant prostanoids associated with inflammation. Both markedly enhance edema formation and leukocyte infiltration by promoting blood flow in the inflamed region. PGE2 and PGI2, through activation of EP2 and IP, respectively, increase vascular permeability and leukocyte infiltration. Through its action as a platelet agonist, TXA2 can also increase platelet-leukocyte interactions. Although probably not made by lymphocytes, prostaglandins may potently regulate lymphocyte function. PGE2 and TXA2 may play a role in T-lymphocyte development by regulating apoptosis of immature thymocytes. PGI2 contributes to immune suppression by interfering with dendritic cell maturation and antigen uptake for presentation to immune cells. PGE2 suppresses the immunologic response by inhibiting differentiation of B lymphocytes into antibody-secreting plasma cells, thus depressing the humoral antibody response. It also inhibits cytotoxic T-cell function, mitogen-stimulated proliferation of T lymphocytes, and maturation and function of TH1 lymphocytes. PGE2 can modify myeloid cell differentiation, promoting type 2 immune-suppressive macrophage and myeloid suppressor cell phenotypes. These effects likely contribute to immune escape in tumors where infiltrating myeloid-derived cells predominantly display type 2 phenotypes. PGD2, a major product of mast cells, is a potent chemoattractant for eosinophils in which it also induces degranulation and leukotriene biosynthesis. PGD2 also induces chemotaxis and migration of TH2 lymphocytes, mainly via activation of DP2, although a role for DP1 has also been established. It remains unclear how these two receptors coordinate the actions of PGD2 in inflammation and immunity. A degradation product of PGD2, 15d-PGJ2, at concentrations actually formed in vivo, may also activate eosinophils via the DP2 (CRTH2) receptor.
Prostaglandins are abundant in skeletal tissue and are produced by osteoblasts and adjacent hematopoietic cells. The major effect of prostaglandins (especially PGE2, acting on EP4) in vivo is to increase bone turnover, ie, stimulation of bone resorption and formation. EP4 receptor deletion in mice results in an imbalance between bone resorption and formation, leading to a negative balance of bone mass and density in older animals. Prostaglandins may mediate the effects of mechanical forces on bones and changes in bone during inflammation. EP4-receptor deletion and inhibition of prostaglandin biosynthesis have both been associated with impaired fracture healing in animal models. COX inhibitors can also slow skeletal muscle healing by interfering with prostaglandin effects on myocyte proliferation, differentiation, and fibrosis in response to injury. Prostaglandins may contribute to the bone loss that occurs at menopause; it has been speculated that NSAIDs may be of therapeutic value in osteoporosis and bone loss prevention in older women. However, controlled evaluation of such therapeutic interventions has not been carried out. NSAIDs, especially those specific for inhibition of COX-2, delay bone healing in experimental models of fracture.
PGE, PGF, and PGD derivatives lower intraocular pressure. The mechanism of this action is unclear but probably involves increased outflow of aqueous humor from the anterior chamber via the uveoscleral pathway (see Clinical Pharmacology of Eicosanoids).
There has been considerable interest in the role of prostaglandins, and in particular the COX-2 pathway, in the development of malignancies. Pharmacologic inhibition or genetic deletion of COX-2 restrains tumor formation in models of colon, breast, lung, and other cancers. Large human epidemiologic studies have found that the incidental use of NSAIDs is associated with significant reductions in relative risk for developing these and other cancers. Chronic low-dose aspirin does not appear to have a substantial impact on cancer incidence; however, it is associated with reduced cancer death in a number of studies. The anticancer efficacy of aspirin in humans may be related to hyperactivity of the PI3 kinase/Akt pathway in tumor cells. In patients with familial polyposis coli, COX inhibitors significantly decrease polyp formation. Polymorphisms in COX-2 have been associated with increased risk of some cancers. Several studies have suggested that COX-2 expression is associated with markers of tumor progression in breast cancer. In mouse mammary tissue, COX-2 is oncogenic whereas NSAID use is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in women, especially for hormone receptor-positive tumors. Despite the support for COX-2 as the predominant source of oncogenic prostaglandins, randomized clinical trials have not been performed to determine whether superior anti-oncogenic effects occur with selective inhibition of COX-2, compared with nonselective NSAIDs. Indeed data from animal models and epidemiologic studies in humans are consistent with a role for COX-1 as well as COX-2 in the production of oncogenic prostanoids.
PGE2, which is considered the principal oncogenic prostanoid, facilitates tumor initiation, progression, and metastasis through multiple biologic effects, increasing proliferation and angiogenesis, inhibiting apoptosis, augmenting cellular invasiveness, and modulating immunosuppression. Augmented expression of mPGES-1 is evident in tumors, and preclinical studies support the potential use of mPGES-1 inhibitors in chemoprevention or treatment. In tumors, reduced levels of OATP2A1 and 15-PGDH, which mediate cellular uptake and metabolic inactivation of PGE2, respectively, likely contribute to sustained PGE2 activity. The pro- and anti-oncogenic roles of other prostanoids remain under investigation, with TXA2 emerging as another likely procarcinogenic mediator, deriving either from macrophage COX-2 or platelet COX-1. Studies in mice lacking EP1, EP2, or EP4 receptors confirm reduced disease in multiple carcinogenesis models. EP3, in contrast, plays no role or may even play a protective role in some cancers. Transactivation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) has been linked with the oncogenic activity of PGE2. PGD2, acting on the DP1 receptor, may reduce angiogenesis, thereby reducing tumor progression.
Effects of Lipoxygenase & Cytochrome P450-Derived Metabolites
Lipoxygenases generate compounds that can regulate specific cellular responses that are important in inflammation and immunity. Cytochrome P450-derived metabolites affect nephron transport functions either directly or via metabolism to active compounds (see below). The biologic functions of the various forms of hydroxy- and hydroperoxyeicosaenoic acids are largely unknown, but their pharmacologic potency is impressive.
A. Blood Cells and Inflammation
LTB4, acting at the BLT1 receptor, is a potent chemoattractant for T lymphocytes, neutrophils, eosinophils, monocytes, and possibly mast cells. LTB4 also contributes to activation of neutrophils and eosinophils, and to monocyte-endothelial adhesion. The cysteinyl leukotrienes are potent chemoattractants for eosinophils and T lymphocytes. Cysteinyl leukotrienes may also generate distinct sets of cytokines through activation of mast cell cysLT1 and cysLT2. At higher concentrations, these leukotrienes also promote eosinophil adherence, degranulation, cytokine or chemokine release, and oxygen radical formation. Cysteinyl leukotrienes also contribute to inflammation by increasing endothelial permeability, thus promoting migration of inflammatory cells to the site of inflammation. The leukotrienes have been strongly implicated in the pathogenesis of inflammation, especially in chronic diseases such as asthma and inflammatory bowel disease.
Lipoxins have diverse effects on leukocytes, including activation of monocytes and macrophages and inhibition of neutrophil, eosinophil, and lymphocyte activation. Both lipoxin A and lipoxin B inhibit natural killer cell cytotoxicity.
B. Heart and Smooth Muscle
1. Cardiovascular— 12(S)-HETE promotes vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation and migration at low concentrations; it may play a role in myointimal proliferation that occurs after vascular injury such as that caused by angioplasty. Its stereoisomer, 12(R)-HETE, is not a chemoattractant, but is a potent inhibitor of the Na+/K+-ATPase in the cornea. In vascular smooth muscle LTB4 may cause vasoconstriction as well as smooth muscle cell migration and proliferation, possibly contributing to atherosclerosis and injury-induced neointimal proliferation. LTC4 and LTD4 reduce myocardial contractility and coronary blood flow, leading to depression of cardiac output. Lipoxin A and lipoxin B exert coronary vasoconstrictor effects in vitro. In addition to their vasodilatory action, EETs may reduce cardiac hypertrophy as well as systemic and pulmonary vascular smooth muscle proliferation and migration.
2. Gastrointestinal— Human colonic epithelial cells synthesize LTB4, a chemoattractant for neutrophils. The colonic mucosa of patients with inflammatory bowel disease contains substantially increased amounts of LTB4. It appears that activation of the BLT2 receptor, possibly by agonists other than LTB4, is protective in colonic epithelium and contributes to maintenance of barrier function.
3. Airways— The cysteinyl leukotrienes, particularly LTC4 and LTD4, are potent bronchoconstrictors and cause increased microvascular permeability, plasma exudation, and mucus secretion in the airways. Controversies exist over whether the pattern and specificity of the leukotriene receptors differ in animal models and humans. LTC4-specific receptors have not been found in human lung tissue, whereas both high- and low-affinity LTD4 receptors are present.
There is substantial evidence for a role of the epoxygenase products in regulating renal function, although their exact role in the human kidney remains unclear. Both 20-HETE and the EETs are generated in renal tissue. 20-HETE, which potently blocks the smooth muscle cell Ca2+-activated K+ channel and leads to vasoconstriction of the renal arteries, has been implicated in the pathogenesis of hypertension. In contrast, studies support an antihypertensive effect of the EETs because of their vasodilating and natriuretic actions. EETs increase renal blood flow and may protect against inflammatory renal damage by limiting glomerular macrophage infiltration. Inhibitors of soluble epoxide hydrolase, which prolong the biologic activities of the EETs, are being developed as potential new antihypertensive drugs. In vitro studies, and work in animal models, support targeting soluble epoxide hydrolase for blood pressure control, although the potential for pulmonary vasoconstriction and tumor promotion through antiapoptotic actions require careful investigation.
The effects of these products on the reproductive organs have not been elucidated.
Similarly, actions on the nervous system have been suggested but not confirmed. 12-HETE stimulates the release of aldosterone from the adrenal cortex and mediates a portion of the aldosterone release stimulated by angiotensin II but not that by adrenocorticotropic hormone. Very low concentrations of LTC4 increase and higher concentrations of arachidonate-derived epoxides augment luteinizing hormone (LH) and LH-releasing hormone release from isolated rat anterior pituitary cells.
INHIBITION OF EICOSANOID SYNTHESIS
Corticosteroids block all the known pathways of eicosanoid synthesis, perhaps in part by stimulating the synthesis of several inhibitory proteins collectively called annexins or lipocortins. They inhibit phospholipase A2 activity, probably by interfering with phospholipid binding, thus preventing the release of arachidonic acid.
The NSAIDs (eg, indomethacin, ibuprofen; see Chapter 36) block both prostaglandin and thromboxane formation by reversibly inhibiting COX activity. The traditional NSAIDs are not selective for COX-1 or COX-2. The more recent, purposefully designed selective COX-2 inhibitors vary—as do the older drugs—in their degree of selectivity. Indeed, there is considerable variability between (and within) individuals in the selectivity attained by the same dose of the same NSAID. Aspirin is an irreversible COX inhibitor. In platelets, which lack nuclei, COX-1 (the only isoform expressed in mature platelets) cannot be restored via protein biosynthesis, resulting in extended inhibition of TXA2 biosynthesis.
EP-receptor agonists and antagonists are under evaluation in the treatment of bone fracture and osteoporosis, whereas TP-receptor antagonists are being investigated for usefulness in the treatment of cardiovascular syndromes. Direct inhibition of PGE2 biosynthesis through selective inhibition of the inducible mPGES-1 isoform is also under examination for potential therapeutic efficacy in pain and inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and chemoprevention of cancer.
Although they remain less effective than inhaled corticosteroids, a 5-LOX inhibitor (zileuton) and selective antagonists of the CysLT1 receptor for leukotrienes (zafirlukast, montelukast, and pranlukast; see Chapter 20) are used clinically in mild to moderate asthma. Growing evidence for a role of the leukotrienes in cardiovascular disease has expanded the potential clinical applications of leukotriene modifiers. Conflicting data have been reported in animal studies depending on the disease model used and the molecular target (5-LOX versus FLAP). Human genetic studies demonstrate a link between cardiovascular disease and polymorphisms in the leukotriene biosynthetic enzymes, and indicate an interaction between the 5-LOX and COX-2 pathways, in some populations.
NSAIDs usually do not inhibit lipoxygenase activity at concentrations attained clinically that inhibit COX activity. In fact, by preventing arachidonic acid conversion via the COX pathway, NSAIDs may cause more substrate to be metabolized through the lipoxygenase pathways, leading to an increased formation of the inflammatory and proliferative leukotrienes. Even among the COX-dependent pathways, inhibiting the synthesis of one derivative may increase the synthesis of an enzymatically related product. Therefore, drugs that inhibit both COX and lipoxygenase are being developed. One such drug, the COX-2/5-LOX inhibitor darbufelone, has shown promise in studies of cancer cells and in mouse tumor models. These mechanistic studies, paired with the observed up-regulation of both COX-2 and 5-LOX in multiple human tumors, including pancreatic cancer, suggest that this may be an important avenue for further investigations.