A prostaglandin is any member of a group of lipid compounds that are derived enzymatically from fatty acids and have important functions in the animal body. Every prostaglandin contains 20 carbon atoms, including a 5-carbon ring. They are mediators and have a variety of strong physiological effects; although they are technically hormones, they are rarely classified as such.
In 1971, it was determined that aspirin-like drugs could inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins. The biochemists Sune K. Bergström, Bengt I. Samuelsson and John R. Vane jointly received the 1982 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their research on prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins are found in virtually all tissues and organs. These are autocrine and paracrine lipid mediators that act upon platelet, endothelium, uterine and mast cells, among others. They are synthesized in the cell from the essential fatty acids (EFAs).
An intermediate is created by phospholipase-A2, then passed into one of either the cyclooxygenase pathway or the lipoxygenase pathway to form either prostaglandin and thromboxane or leukotriene. The cyclooxygenase pathway produces thromboxane, prostacyclin and prostaglandin D, E and F. The lipoxygenase pathway is active in leukocytes and in macrophages and synthesizes leukotrienes.
|Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) via DGLA||ω-6||series-1|
|Arachidonic acid (AA)||ω-6||series-2|
|Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)||ω-3||series-3|
Prostaglandins were originally believed to leave the cells via passive diffusion because of their high lipophilicity. The discovery of the prostaglandin transporter (PGT, SLCO2A1), which mediates the cellular uptake of prostaglandin, demonstrated that diffusion cannot explain the penetration of prostaglandin through the cellular membrane. The release of prostaglandin has now also been shown to be mediated by a specific transporter, namely the multidrug resistance protein 4 (MRP4, ABCC4), a member of the ATP-binding cassette transporter superfamily. Whether MRP4 is the only transporter releasing prostaglandins from the cells is still unclear.
Prostaglandins are produced following the sequential oxidation of AA, DGLA or EPA by cyclooxygenases (COX-1 and COX-2) and terminal prostaglandin synthases. The classic dogma is as follows:
However, while COX-1 and COX-2 are both located in the blood vessels, stomach and the kidneys, prostaglandin levels are increased by COX-2 in scenarios of inflammation. A third form of COX, termed COX-3, has been identified, but its exact function is still being determined.
Prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) is generated from the action of prostaglandin E synthases on prostaglandin H2 (PGH2). Several prostaglandin E synthases have been identified. To date, microsomal prostaglandin E synthase-1 emerges as a key enzyme in the formation of PGE2.
Terminal prostaglandin synthases have been identified that are responsible for the formation of other prostaglandins. For example, hematopoietic and lipocalin prostaglandin D synthases (hPGDS and lPGDS) are responsible for the formation of PGD2 from PGH2. Similarly, prostacyclin (PGI2) synthase (PGIS) converts PGH2 into PGI2. A thromboxane synthase (TxAS) has also been idenfitied. Prostaglandin F synthase (PGFS) catalyzes the formation of 9α,11β-PGF2α,β from PGD2 and PGF2α from PGH2 in the presence of NADPH. This enzyme has recently been crystallyzed in complex with PGD2 and bimatoprost (a synthetic analogue of PGF2α).
These varied receptors mean that Prostaglandins thus act on a variety of cells, and have a wide variety of actions:
Prostaglandins are potent but have a short half-life before being inactivated and excreted. Therefore, they exert only a paracrine (locally active) or autocrine (acting on the same cell from which it is synthesized) function.
Examples of prostaglandin antagonists are:
However, both NSAIDs and Coxibs can raise the risk of myocardial infarction.