BACKGROUND: A special regulatory role for prostaglandin E2 has been postulated in aspirin-induced asthma. A study was undertaken to investigate the effects of aspirin on the systemic production of prostaglandin E2 and cysteinyl leucotrienes in patients with asthma.
METHODS: The urinary concentrations were determined of two main prostaglandin E2 metabolites (13,14-dihydro-15keto-PGE2 using a commercial enzyme immunoassay and 9,15-dioxo-11alpha-hydroxy-2,3,4,5-tetranor-prostane-1,20-dioic acid by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry) and leucotriene E4 using an immunoassay. Determinations were performed at baseline and following oral aspirin and celecoxib challenges in two well-defined asthma phenotypes: aspirin-sensitive and aspirin-tolerant patients.
RESULTS: Aspirin precipitated bronchial reactions in all aspirin-sensitive patients but in none of the aspirin-tolerant patients. Celecoxib 400 mg was well tolerated by all patients except for one with aspirin-induced asthma. At baseline, the mean levels of prostaglandin E2 metabolites did not differ between the groups. Following different aspirin provocation doses, the mean levels of the two main prostaglandin E2 metabolites were decreased in the aspirin-tolerant group but remained unchanged in the aspirin-sensitive group. The dose of aspirin had no effect on the magnitude of the response on the prostaglandin E2 metabolites and its duration. In both groups, urinary prostaglandin E2 metabolites decreased following celecoxib challenge. No correlation was found between prostaglandin E2 metabolites and leucotriene E4.
CONCLUSIONS: Aspirin-precipitated asthmatic attacks are not associated with changes in the systemic production of prostaglandin E2. In contrast, the systemic production of prostaglandin E2 becomes depressed by aspirin in non-sensitive patients. This different response might indicate COX-1-dependent prostaglandin E2 control of inflammatory cells in aspirin-induced asthma. Thus, PGE2 is released during the clinical reactions to aspirin through an alternative COX-2 pathway. The clinical implications of this finding are in line with current observations of good tolerance of the selective COX-2 inhibitors in aspirin-sensitive patients.
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