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Infect Immun. 2012 Oct;80(10):3429-37. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00714-12. Epub 2012 Jul 23.

Stressor-induced increase in microbicidal activity of splenic macrophages is dependent upon peroxynitrite production.

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  • 1Integrated Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.


Exposing mice to a social stressor called social disruption (SDR) that involves repeated social defeat during intermale aggression results in increased circulating cytokines, such as interleukin-1α (IL-1α) and IL-1β, and increased reactivity of splenic CD11b(+) macrophages to inflammatory stimuli. For example, upon lipopolysaccharide stimulation, macrophages from stressor-exposed mice produce higher levels of cytokines than do cells from nonstressed controls. Moreover, the SDR stressor enhances the ability of these macrophages to kill Escherichia coli both in vitro and in vivo, through a Toll-like receptor 4-dependent mechanism. The present study tested the hypothesis that stressor-enhanced bacterial killing is due to increases in the production of peroxynitrite. Male mice were exposed to the SDR stressor or were left undisturbed. Upon stimulation with E. coli, splenic macrophages from SDR-exposed mice expressed significantly increased levels of inducible nitric oxide synthase mRNA and produced higher levels of peroxynitrite. Blocking the production of peroxynitrite abrogated the SDR-induced increase in microbicidal activity. Studies in IL-1 receptor type 1 knockout mice indicated that the increased microbicidal activity and peroxynitrite production was dependent upon IL-1 signaling. These data confirm and extend the importance of IL-1 signaling for stressor-induced immunopotentiation; the finding that inhibiting superoxide or nitric oxide production inhibits both peroxynitrite production and killing of E. coli demonstrates that peroxynitrite mediates the stressor-induced increase in bacterial killing.

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