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Protein family review

The cyclooxygenases

NV Chandrasekharan* and Daniel L Simmons

Author Affiliations

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA

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Genome Biology 2004, 5:241  doi:10.1186/gb-2004-5-9-241

Published: 27 August 2004

Abstract

Cyclooxygenases (COXs) catalyze the rate-limiting step in the production of prostaglandins, bioactive compounds involved in processes such as fever and sensitivity to pain, and are the target of aspirin-like drugs. COX genes have been cloned from coral, tunicates and vertebrates, and in all the phyla where they are found, there are two genes encoding two COX isoenzymes; it is unclear whether these genes arose from an early single duplication event or from multiple independent duplications in evolution. The intron-exon arrangement of COX genes is completely conserved in vertebrates and mostly conserved in all species. Exon boundaries largely define the four functional domains of the encoded protein: the amino-terminal hydrophobic signal peptide, the dimerization domain, the membrane-binding domain, and the catalytic domain. The catalytic domain of each enzyme contains distinct peroxidase and cyclooxygenase active sites; COXs are classified as members of the myeloperoxidase family. All COXs are homodimers and monotopic membrane proteins (inserted into only one leaflet of the membrane), and they appear to be targeted to the lumenal membrane of the endoplasmic reticulum, where they are N-glycosylated. In mammals, the two COX genes encode a constitutive isoenzyme (COX-1) and an inducible isoenzyme (COX-2); both are of significant pharmacological importance.