Phospholipase A2 (PLA2)-catalyzed hydrolysis of membrane phospholipids results in the stoichiometric production of a free fatty acid, most importantly arachidonic acid, and a lysophospholipid. Both of these phospholipid metabolites serve as precursors for inflammatory mediators such as eicosanoids or platelet-activating factor (PAF). Since it was initially discovered that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs inhibit prostaglandin synthesis, a vast amount of drug development has been performed to selectively inhibit the production of the inflammatory metabolites of arachidonic acid while preserving their protective role. This research has culminated in the development of selective cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors that act on the inducible, inflammatory COX enzyme, but do not affect the constitutive prostaglandin synthesis in cells that is mediated via COX-1. The development of PLA2 inhibitors as potential anti-inflammatory agents has also been extensively pursued since the release of arachidonic acid from membrane phospholipids by PLA2 is one of the rate-limiting factors for eicosanoid production. In addition to the production of eicosanoids, PLA2-catalyzed membrane phospholipid hydrolysis is also the initiating step in the generation of PAF, a potent inflammatory agent. Thus, inhibition of PLA2 activity should, in theory, be a more effective anti-inflammatory approach. However, developing an inhibitor that would be selective for the production of inflammatory metabolites and not inhibit the beneficial properties of PLA2 has so far proved to be elusive. This review will focus on agents used currently to inhibit PLA2 activity and will explore their possible therapeutic use.
Keywords: phospholipids, mammalian membranes, cytosol, arachidonic acid, paf-acetylhydrolases, fluorophosphonates, endothelial cell, cox
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