Pharmacodynamic properties of leukotriene receptor antagonists

Monaldi Arch Chest Dis. 1999 Jun;54(3):242-6.


Leukotrienes (LTs) are among the most important mediators of asthma; cysteine-containing LTs (cysteinyl-LTs, i.e. LTC4, LTD4 and LTE4) are very potent bronchoconstrictors and participate in the inflammatory component of asthma by inducing mucus hypersecretion, plasma extravasation, mucosal oedema and eosinophil recruitment. Therefore, compounds able to inhibit either the formation or the action of LTs are potential antiasthma drugs and, at present, the cysteinyl-LT receptor antagonists (LTRAs) appear to be the most promising. The receptors for cysteinyl-LTs, termed CysLT receptors, are heterogeneous; at least two different classes have so far been recognized, named CysLT1 (blocked by the so-called classical antagonists, such as FPL 55712, ICI 198,615, ICI 204,219, SK&F 104353, MK-476 and others) and CysLT2 (insensitive to the classical antagonists, but sensitive to BAY u9773). The authors' results indicate that even more receptor subclasses might exist in human airways, which discriminate between LTC4 and LTD4, both asthma mediators. Among the many LTRAs, zafirlukast (Accolate, ICI 204,219), montelukast (Singulair, MK-476) and pranlukast (Onon, ONO-1078) are available for clinical use. All the LTRAs are able to inhibit LTD4-induced bronchoconstriction in humans, albeit with different potencies. With respect to antigen challenge, all of them inhibit the early phase of response, whereas only the most recently developed and potent ones are effective in the late phase. LTRAs are effective in asthma triggered by exercise, cold or aspirin. Furthermore, although they are not bronchodilators per se, they increase basal forced expiratory volume in one second in patients with mild-to-moderate asthma, indicating that, in these individuals, constant cysteinyl-LT release contributes to maintaining increased bronchial tone. Finally, the effect of LTRAs is additive to that of beta-agonists and is potentiated by antihistamine compounds. In conclusion, the available results clearly indicate that leukotrienes play an important role in asthma and that cysteinyl leukotriene receptor antagonists are very promising antiasthma drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Leukotriene Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Receptors, Leukotriene / classification
  • Receptors, Leukotriene / physiology


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents
  • Leukotriene Antagonists
  • Receptors, Leukotriene