The leukotriene E4 puzzle: finding the missing pieces and revealing the pathobiologic implications

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Sep;124(3):406-14; quiz 415-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2009.05.046. Epub 2009 Aug 3.


The intracellular parent of the cysteinyl leukotrienes (cysLTs), leukotriene (LT) C(4), is formed by conjugation of LTA(4) and reduced glutathione by LTC(4) synthase in mast cells, eosinophils, basophils, and macrophages. After extracellular export, LTC(4) is converted to LTD(4) and LTE(4) through sequential enzymatic removal of glutamic acid and then glycine. Only LTE(4) is sufficiently stable to be prominent in biologic fluids, such as urine or bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, of asthmatic individuals and at sites of inflammation in animal models. LTE(4) has received little attention because it binds poorly to the classical type 1 and 2 cysLT receptors and is much less active on normal airways than LTC(4) or LTD(4). However, early studies indicated that LTE(4) caused skin swelling in human subjects as potently as LTC(4) and LTD(4), that airways of asthmatic subjects (particularly those that were aspirin sensitive) were selectively hyperresponsive to LTE(4), and that a potential distinct LTE(4) receptor was present in guinea pig trachea. Recent studies have begun to uncover receptors selective for LTE(4): P2Y(12), an adenosine diphosphate receptor, and CysLT(E)R, which was observed functionally in the skin of mice lacking the type 1 and 2 cysLT receptors. These findings prompt a renewed focus on LTE(4) receptors as therapeutic targets that are not currently addressed by available receptor antagonists.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Humans
  • Leukotriene Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Leukotriene C4 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Leukotriene C4 / metabolism
  • Leukotriene D4 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Leukotriene D4 / metabolism
  • Leukotriene E4 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Leukotriene E4 / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Receptors, Leukotriene / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / metabolism
  • Skin / immunology
  • Skin / pathology


  • Leukotriene Antagonists
  • Receptors, Leukotriene
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2
  • Leukotriene C4
  • Leukotriene D4
  • Leukotriene E4