Leukotrienes (LTs) are the ultimate synthetic product resulting from the intracellular hydrolysis of membrane phospholipid at the nuclear envelope in inflammatory cells. Activated cytosolic phospholipase (cPLA) catalyzes the production of arachidonic acid, which is converted by cyclooxygenases into leukotriene A (LTA) and subsequently into the chemotaxin LTB, which has no direct bronchoconstrictor activity. In certain inflammatory cells, LTA is converted into the cysteinyl leukotriene (cysLT) LTC, which is converted into LTD and finally to LTE after extracellular transport. All cysLTs occupy the same receptors and are extremely potent bronchoconstricting agents that are pathogenetic in both asthma and allergy. With the identification of the structure of the cysLT receptor, antileukotriene therapies have been developed that either () inhibit synthesis of leukotriene (through 5-lipoxygenase inhibition) or () block the cysLT receptor. Preliminary investigations indicate that corticosteroids also may partially block the synthesis of cysLT and that cysLTs may be chemotactic for other inflammatory cells, e.g. eosinophils, by a mechanism that has not yet been defined. Currently, anti-LT therapies are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only for patients with asthma. These drugs generally are moderately efficacious agents, although they are highly efficacious in aspirin-induced asthma (AIA). In other forms of asthma, inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) therapy has been more effective than anti-LT therapy in improving air flow obstruction. However, anti-LT agents are additive to beta-adrenoceptor and ICS in their effects. Accordingly, anti-LT therapies are used frequently as supplemental treatments in asthmatic patients whose asthma is not optimally controlled by a combination of other drugs, including long-acting beta-adrenoceptor drugs and ICS agents. The growth of leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs) has been extraordinary in the United States. The exceptional safety of these agents and their ease of administration as tablets taken once or twice daily has spurred this growth. In the past year, the high-affinity cysLT receptor has been cloned. This holds forth the promise of a second generation of LTRA agents of even greater efficacy and possibly greater duration of action.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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