Functions of Prostaglandins

The prostaglandins are a series of 2-carbon unsaturated fatty acids containing a cyclopentane ring, hence their alternative name ecosanoids. They were first isolated from semen but are now known to be synthesized in most and possibly all organs in the body. There are nine classes of prostaglandins denoted PGA-I, within which individual prostaglandins are denoted by numeral subscripts.1

Prostaglandins Differ From Hormones

They are extremely potent compounds that elicit a wide range of response, both physiologic and pathological. Although they have been compared to hormones in their actions, eicosanoids differ from the true hormones in that they are produced in very small amounts in almost all tissues rather than in specialized glands. They also act locally rather after transport in the blood to distant sites, as occurs with true hormones such as insulin. Eicosanoids are not stored, and they have an extremely short half-life, being rapidly metabolized to inactive products. Their biological actions are mediated by plasma and nuclear membrane receptors.4

Source: Front Mol Neurosci. 2014; 7: 104. 2015 Jan 13. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2014.00104

Role of Prostaglandins in Inflammation

Prostaglandins stimulate inflammatory response in most organs. They mediate fever, vascular permeability, swelling, and are involved in a number of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, skin inflammation, and asthma.2 There is now a better understanding of the physiological role of prostaglandins and of significance was the discovery that aspirin, indomethacin and other non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) exert their therapeutic action by blocking the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX), responsible for converting arachidonic acid (fatty acid released from cell membranes following injury), into prostaglandin.3

Role of Prostaglandins In Transmitting Nerve Signals

Prostaglandins stimulate nerves that sends pain messages to the brain.

Other Important Functions of Prostaglandins

In addition to their roles in mediating inflammation, fever, and allergic response, and ensuring gastric integrity and renal function, prostaglandins are involved in a diverse group of physiologic functions, including ovarian and uterine function, bone metabolism, nerve and brain function, smooth muscle regulation and platelet homeostasis.

Synthetic Prostaglandins

Synthetic prostaglandins are used to induce childbirth, to close patent ductus arteriosus in newborns, to reduce gastric acid secretion and treat peptic ulcers, dilate blood vessels in a limb with a severe lack of blood supply and pulmonary hypertension.6

Use of Synthetic Prostaglandins in Dogs

Synthetic prostaglandins analogues such as misoprostol impart protection to the lining of the stomach (gastric mucosa) in a manner similar to natural prostaglandins. Clinical studies of canine and human patients have shown misoprostol to be effective in preventing NSAIDS-induced stomach bleeding, erosion, or ulceration. Diarrhea and vomiting are potential side effects, especially if used above the recommended dosage range. No adverse effects have been seen with the use of misoprostol in dogs. Misoprostol will cause abortions and should not be used in pregnant patients.7

Effects of Imbalance of Different Prostaglandins

An imbalance of different kinds of prostaglandins may play a role in depression. For example, high levels of PGE1 and PGE3 (promoted by linoleic acid, omega-6, as well as omega-3 fatty acids) correlate with good modd and enhanced serotonin (neurotransmitter) activity, as well as more effective immunity and diminished tendency to blood clotting). High levels of proinflammatory PGE2 prostaglandin correlate with depression, irritability and fatigue.5


  1. Review of medical physiology. William F. Ganong
  2. Oral tolerance: the response of the intestinal mucosa to dietary antigens. Olivier Morteau
  3. Progress in medicinal chemistry, Volume 15. Gwynn Pennant Ellis, Geoffrey Buckle West
  4. Biochemistry. Pamela C. Champe, Richard A. Harvey, Denise R. Ferrier
  5. Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression. James S. Gordon
  6. Principles of Medical Physiology. Sabyasachi Sircar
  7. Handbook of small animal gastroenterology. Todd R. Tams



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