Aspirin: The Mechanism of Action Revisited in the Context of Pregnancy Complications

Front Immunol. 2017 Mar 15;8:261. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.00261. eCollection 2017.


Aspirin is one of the most frequently used and cheapest drugs in medicine. It belongs to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs with a wide range of pharmacological activities, including analgesic, antipyretic, and antiplatelet properties. Currently, it is accepted to prescribe a low dose of aspirin to pregnant women who are at high risk of preeclampsia (PE) because it reduces the onset of this complication. Another pregnancy alteration in which a low dose of aspirin is recommended is the obstetric antiphospholipid syndrome (APS). The most recognized mechanism of action of aspirin is to inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandins but this by itself does not explain the repertoire of anti-inflammatory effects of aspirin. Later, another mechanism was described: the induction of the production of aspirin-triggered lipoxins (ATLs) from arachidonic acid by acetylation of the enzyme cyclooxygenase-2. The availability of a stable analog of ATL has stimulated investigations on the use of this analog and it has been found that, similar to endogenously produced lipoxins, ATL resolves inflammation and acts as antioxidant and immunomodulator. If we consider that in PE and in the obstetric APS, there is an underlying inflammatory process, aspirin might be used based on the induction of ATL. The objective of this review is to revisit the old and new mechanisms of action of aspirin. In particular, it intends to show other potential uses of this drug to prevent certain pregnancy complications in the light of its ability to induce anti-inflammatory and pro-resolving lipid-derived mediators.

Keywords: anti-inflammatory; aspirin-triggered lipoxins; obstetric antiphospholipid syndrome; preeclampsia; pregnancy complications; pro-resolving lipid-derived mediators.

Publication types

  • Review