Eicosanoids are a group of oxygenated fatty-acid derivatives formed from C20 polyunsaturated fatty acids including arachidonic and eicosapentaenoic acids. In mammals, these compounds have been shown to be key molecules in several physiological processes including regulation of the vascular system. This study determined whether eicosanoids or their precursors are involved in the regulation of heart rate in the sea squirt Ciona intestinalis. Eicosanoid generation by both heart and blood cells was measured. The major lipoxygenase products formed were both derivatives of eicosapentaenoic acid, namely 8- and 12-hydroxyeicosapentaenoic acids (8-HEPE and 12-HEPE). Smaller amounts of 8,15-dihydroxyeicosapentaenoic acid (8,15-diHEPE) were also formed. The cyclo-oxygenase product prostaglandin E was also found in small amounts in the heart. Isolated hearts were exposed either to these fatty acid precursors or to 8-HEPE, 12-HEPE or prostaglandin E3, and the effect on heart rate was recorded. Both eicosapentaenoic and arachidonic acids stimulated the heart rate at concentrations between 50 and 200 μmoll-1. 12-HEPE (5 μmoll-1) and prostaglandin E3 (50μ moll-1) caused a modest increase in heart rate, while 8-HEPE had no significant effects at any of the time periods studied (≤180 min). Overall, the results show that arachidonic and eicosapentaenoic acids have limited effects on heart rate and only at concentrations unlikely to be routinely liberated in vivo. Similarly, the eicosanoids tested had a minor stimulatory activity on heart rate. The potential mechanisms for this stimulation are discussed. Overall, these results suggest that such compounds are of limited importance in regulating the heart and vascular system of sea squirts.
- © The Company of Biologists Limited 2002