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J Lipid Mediat. 1993 Aug;8(1):1-30.

Extracellular phospholipase A2 expression and inflammation: the relationship with associated disease states.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Human non-pancreatic PLA2 has been the object of intense scrutiny for a relatively short period of time. Its role in physiology remains enigmatic. While PLA2 may serve to remodel or remove peroxidised or senescent phospholipids, the enormous magnitude of its upregulation during infectious or inflammatory episodes is consistent with a role in host defense. However, the nature of this role remains elusive. Attempts to relegate this enzyme to the genre of acute phase reactants have not been helpful in unravelling its role. Difficulty in obtaining adequate amounts of native snp-PLA2 prior to the availability of recombinant snp-PLA2 led to the widespread use of snake venom homologs, particularly in studies of the biology of PLA2. This review has underscored the pitfalls inherent in that approach given the major differences between some venom PLA2s as compared to snp-PLA2. In addition, it bears reiterating that the complex composition of venom allows for potentiation of PLA2 activity by other constituents present in venom. Whether human host defense networks employ this interactive strategy is largely unknown. Nonetheless, in spite of these reservations, some very compelling data have emerged in recent years implicating snp-PLA2 in the initiation or potentiation of local and systemic inflammatory processes. These include sepsis and associated acute lung injury as well as inflammatory arthritides, with rheumatoid arthritis as the prototype. The mechanisms of snp-PLA2 homeostasis are considerably better understood, and it has become apparent that snp-PLA2 is an integral part of a larger network of proinflammatory cytokines, growth factors and lipid mediators. The interrelationship between the functions of secretory and cytosolic PLA2s remains to be defined. A number of selective PLA2 inhibitors have been identified which will allow for discrimination between the actions of these classes of PLA2. The availability of synthetic inhibitors in conjunction with endogenous modulators of PLA2s will shift the biology of PLA2 from the realm of the inferential to that of the mechanistic.

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