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Am J Med. 1999 May 31;106(5B):37S-42S.

Role and regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 during inflammation.

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Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Prostaglandins are formed from arachidonic acid by the action of cyclooxygenase (COX) and subsequent downstream synthetases. Recently, it has been found that there are two closely related forms of COX, which are now known as COX-1 and COX-2. Although both isoforms of this enzyme convert arachidonate to prostaglandins, there are significant differences in their distribution in the body and their roles in health and disease. The basis for these important differences lies in the genes for COX-1 and COX-2 and the regulation of these genes. COX-1, the predominantly constitutive form of the enzyme, is expressed throughout the body and provides certain homeostatic functions, such as maintaining normal gastric mucosa, influencing renal blood flow, and aiding in blood clotting by abetting platelet aggregation. In contrast, COX-2, the inducible form, is expressed in response to inflammatory and other physiologic stimuli and growth factors and is involved in the production of those prostaglandins that mediate pain and support the inflammatory process. All conventional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) nonspecifically inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2 at standard anti-inflammatory doses. The beneficial anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects occur through the inhibition of COX-2, but the gastrointestinal toxicities and the mild bleeding diathesis occur as a result of concurrent inhibition of COX-1. It is important that physicians fully understand the pharmacologic basis for the differential actions of NSAIDs when prescribing them for pain and inflammation. This understanding is also important so that physicians can critically evaluate the basis for, and the emerging data on, COX-2-specific inhibitors and their potential role in clinical medicine. Agents that would inhibit COX-2 while sparing COX-1 represent an attractive therapeutic development and could represent a major advance in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as a diverse array of other conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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