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Prostaglandins Other Lipid Mediat. 2003 Oct;72(1-2):51-71.

Role of cytochrome P450-dependent arachidonic acid metabolites in liver physiology and pathophysiology.

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  • 1Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Azienda Ospedaliera and University of Padova, Clinica Medica 5, Via Giustiniani 2, 35100 Padova, Italy.


Arachidonic acid (AA) can undergo monooxygenation or epoxidation by enzymes in the cytochrome P450 (CYP) family in the brain, kidney, lung, vasculature, and the liver. CYP-AA metabolites, 19- and 20-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acids (HETEs), epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs) and diHETEs have different biological properties based on sites of production and can be stored in tissue lipids and released in response to hormonal stimuli. 20-HETE is a vasoconstrictor, causing blockade of Ca(++)-activated K(+) (KCa) channels. Inhibition of the formation of nitric oxide (NO) by 20-HETE mediates most of the cGMP-independent component of the vasodilator response to NO. 20-HETE elicits a potent dilator response in human and rabbit pulmonary vascular and bronchiole rings that is dependent on an intact endothelium and COX. 20-HETE is also a vascular oxygen sensor, inhibits Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase activity, is an endogenous inhibitor of the Na(+)-K(+)-2Cl(-)cotransporter, mediates the mitogenic actions of vasoactive agents and growth factors in many tissues and plays a significant role in angiogenesis. EETs, produced by the vascular endothelium, are potent dilators. EETs hyperpolarize VSM cells by activating KCa channels. Several investigators have proposed that one or more EETs may serve as endothelial-derived hyperpolarizing factors (EDHF). EETs constrict human and rabbit bronchioles, are potent mediators of insulin and glucagon release in isolated rat pancreatic islets, and have anti-inflammatory activity. Compared with other organs, the liver has the highest total CYP content and contains the highest levels of individual CYP enzymes involved in the metabolism of fatty acids. In humans, 50-75% of CYP-dependent AA metabolites formed by liver microsomes are omega/omega-OH-AA, mainly w-OH-AA, i.e. 20HETE, and 13-28% are EETs. Very little information is available on the role of 19- and 20-HETE and EETs in liver function. EETs are involved in vasopressin-induced glycogenolysis, probably via the activation of phosphorylase. In the portal vein, inhibition of EETs exerts profound effects on a variety of K-channel activities in smooth muscles of this vessel. 20-HETE is a weak, COX-dependent, vasoconstrictor of the portal circulation. EETs, particularly 11,12-EET, cause vasoconstriction of the porto-sinusoidal circulation. Increased synthesis of EETs in portal vessels and/or sinusoids or increased levels in blood from the meseneric circulation may participate in the pathophysiology of portal hypertension of cirrhosis. CYP-dependent AA metabolites are involved in the pathophysiology of portal hypertension, not only by increasing resistance in the porto-sinusoidal circulation, but also by increasing portal inflow through mesenteric vasodilatation. In patients with cirrhosis, urinary 20-HETE is several-fold higher than PGs and TxB2, whereas in normal subjects, 20-HETE and PGs are excreted at similar rates. Thus, 20-HETE is probably produced in increased amounts in the preglomerular microcirculation accounting for the functional decrease of flow and increase in sodium reabsorption. In conclusion, CYP-AA metabolites represent a group of compounds that participate in the regulation of liver metabolic activity and hemodynamics. They appear to be deeply involved in abnormalities related to liver diseases, particularly cirrhosis, and play a key role in the pathophysiology of portal hypertension and renal failure.

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