Leukotrienes: mediators of immediate hypersensitivity reactions and inflammation

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Science  06 May 1983:
Vol. 220, Issue 4597, pp. 568-575
DOI: 10.1126/science.6301011


Arachidonic acid plays a central role in a biological control system where such oxygenated derivatives as prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes are mediators. The leukotrienes are formed by transformation of arachidonic acid into an unstable epoxide intermediate, leukotriene A4, which can be converted enzymatically by hydration to leukotriene B4, and by addition of glutathione to leukotriene C4. This last compound is metabolized to leukotrienes D4 and E4 by successive elimination of a gamma-glutamyl residue and glycine. Slow-reacting substance of anaphylaxis consists of leukotrienes C4, D4, and E4. The cysteinyl-containing leukotrienes are potent bronchoconstrictors, increase vascular permeability in postcapillary venules, and stimulate mucus secretion. Leukotriene B4 causes adhesion and chemotactic movement of leukocytes and stimulates aggregation, enzyme release, and generation of superoxide in neutrophils. Leukotrienes C4, D4, and E4, which are released from the lung tissue of asthmatic subjects exposed to specific allergens, seem to play a pathophysiological role in immediate hypersensitivity reactions. These leukotrienes, as well as leukotriene B4, have pro-inflammatory effects.

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