Androgen-mediated sex bias impairs efficiency of leukotriene biosynthesis inhibitors in males

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Proinflammatory leukotrienes (LTs) are produced by 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO) aided by 5-LO–activating protein (FLAP). LT biosynthesis inhibitors are currently under clinical investigation as treatments for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Here, we have revealed a sex bias in the efficiency of clinically relevant LT biosynthesis inhibitors, showing that their effects are superior in females. We found that androgens cause these sex differences by impeding the LT-biosynthetic 5-LO/FLAP complex assembly. Lower doses of the FLAP inhibitor MK886 were required to reduce LTB4 levels in exudates of female versus male mice and rats. Following platelet-activating factor–induced shock, MK886 increased survival exclusively in female mice, and this effect was abolished by testosterone administration. FLAP inhibitors and the novel-type 5-LO inhibitors licofelone and sulindac sulfide exhibited higher potencies in human blood from females, and bioactive 5-LO/FLAP complexes were formed in female, but not male, human and murine leukocytes. Supplementation of female blood or leukocytes with 5α-dihydrotestosterone abolished the observed sex differences. Our data suggest that females may benefit from anti-LT therapy to a greater extent than males, prompting consideration of sex issues in LT modifier development.

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