Prostaglandin (Molecule of the Month for February 2007)
Prostaglandins are members of a group of lipid compounds that are derived enzymatically from essential fatty acids (EFAs) and have important functions in the animal body. Every prostaglandin contains 20 carbon atoms, including a 5-carbon ring.
Prostaglandin name derives from the prostate gland. When prostaglandins were first isolated from seminal fluid in 1935 by the Swedish physiologist Ulf von Euler and independently by M.W. Goldblatt, it was believed to be part of the prostatic secretions. Later it was shown that many other tissues secrete prostaglandins for various functions. In 1971, it was determined that aspirin-like drugs could inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins. The biochemists Sune K. Bergström, Bengt I. Samuelsson and John R. Vane jointly received the 1982 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their researches on prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins thus act on a variety of cells such as vascular smooth muscle cells causing constriction or dilation, on platelets causing aggregation or disaggregation and on spinal neurons causing pain. Prostaglandins have a wide variety of actions, including, but not limited to muscular constriction and mediate inflammation. Other effects include calcium movement, hormone regulation and cell growth control.
Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)
Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for February 2007 )