Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) belongs to a new family of lipid mediators that are endogenous growth factors and that elicit diverse biological effects, usually via the activation of G protein-coupled receptors. LPA can be generated after cell activation through the hydrolysis of preexisting phospholipids in the membranes of stimulated cells. A dramatic elevation of LPA levels was found in serum of patients suffering from ovarian carcinoma. Because these high LPA amounts can be detected as early as stage I of the disease, LPA has been introduced as a new marker for ovarian cancer. Progression of the malignancy is correlated with a differential expression of various LPA receptor subtypes. The presence of LPA in the follicular fluid of healthy individuals implicates that this biological mediator may be relevant to normal ovarian physiology. LPA induces proliferation and mitogenic signaling of prostate cancer cells, and a novel LPA receptor isoform has been recognized in healthy prostate tissues. This evidence indicates multiple roles for LPA in both male and female reproductive physiology and pathology. In this review, we summarize the literature on LPA generation, the way it is degraded, and the mechanisms by which signals are transduced by various LPA receptors in reproductive tissues, and we discuss possible future research directions in these areas.
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