Aspirin: an unexpected side effect on prostacyclin synthesis in cultured vascular smooth muscle cells

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Science  07 Nov 1980:
Vol. 210, Issue 4470, pp. 663-665
DOI: 10.1126/science.6776627


Monolayer cultures of rat aorta smooth muscle cells synthesized the anti-aggregatory substance prostacyclin via the cyclooxygenase pathway from 14C-labeled arachidonic acid. The product was identified both by bioassay and by mass spectrometry. Labeled cells produced prostacyclin only when exposed to the initiator thrombin: treatment with therapeutic concentrations of aspirin (0.2 millimolar) for 30 minutes completely destroyed the cells' ability to synthesize prostacyclin. Prostacyclin synthesis from exogenous arachidonic acid recovered fully within 1 to 2 hours by a cycloheximide-sensitive process. Thrombin responsivness, which was permanently impaired in confluent nondividing cultures, recovered substantially and within 24 hours only when cells were stimulated to divide by subculturing. These results indicate that resting vascular cells can rapidly synthesize new cyclooxygenase, but that aspirin destroys additional components of the prostacyclin system which can only be replaced during cell division.

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