Despite the fact that cyclooxygenase and its products, prostaglandins, have been traditionally associated with the development of inflammation, PGE2 was implicated early on as potentially beneficial in asthma. During the 1970s and 1980s, several studies reported the bronchodilator effect of PGE2 in asthma patients. In parallel, it was being shown to exert an inhibitory effect on mast cells in vitro. In spite of this, data supporting the beneficial role for PGE2 in asthma were scarce and sometimes controversial.
Many years later, in vitro and in vivo studies suggested a range of biological activities attributable to PGE2, others than the ability to relax smooth muscle, that potentially explained some of the observed positive effects in asthma. The identification and cloning of the four PGE2 receptors made available new tools with which to fine-tune investigation of the anti-inflammatory, pro-inflammatory, immunoregulatory, and bronchodilation mechanisms of PGE2. Among these, several suggested involvement of mast cells, a cell population known to play a fundamental role in acute and chronic asthma. Indeed, it has been shown that PGE2 prevents human and murine MC activity in vitro through activation of the EP2 receptor, and also that both exogenously administered and endogenous PGE2 inhibit airway MC activity in vivo in mouse models of asthma (likely through an EP2-mediated mechanism as well). In the last few years, we have furthered into the functional connection between PGE2-induced mast cells inhibition and attenuated damage, in asthma and allergy models. The validity of the findings supporting a beneficial effect of PGE2 in different asthma phases, the direct effect of PGE2 on mast cells populations, and the functional implications of the PGE2–MC interaction on airway function are some of the topics addressed in this review, under the assumption that increased understanding of the PGE2–EP2–mast cell axis will likely lead to the discovery of novel antiasthma targets.