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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 May;87(9):3629-32.

NG-methyl-L-arginine inhibits tumor necrosis factor-induced hypotension: implications for the involvement of nitric oxide.

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  • 1Department of Medical Oncology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030.


Clinical assessment of the activity of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) against human cancer has been limited by a dose-dependent cardiovascular toxicity, most frequently hypotension. TNF is also thought to mediate the vascular collapse resulting from bacterial endotoxin. The present studies address the mechanism by which TNF causes hypotension and provide evidence for elevated production of nitric oxide, a potent vasodilator initially characterized as endothelium-derived relaxing factor. Nitric oxide is synthesized by several cell types, including endothelial cells and macrophages, from the guanidino nitrogen of L-arginine; the enzymatic pathway is competitively inhibited by NG-methyl-L-arginine. We found that hypotension induced in pentobarbital-anesthetized dogs by TNF (10 micrograms/kg, i.v., resulting in a fall in mean systemic arterial pressure from 124.7 +/- 7 to 62.0 +/- 22.9 mmHg; 1 mmHg = 133 Pa) was completely reversed within 2 min following administration of NG-methyl-L-arginine (4.4 mg/kg, i.v.). In contrast, NG-methyl-L-arginine failed to reverse the hypotensive response to an equivalent depressor dose of nitroglycerin, a compound that acts by forming nitric oxide by a nonenzymatic, arginine-independent mechanism. The effect of NG-methyl-L-arginine on TNF-induced hypotension was antagonized, and the hypotension restored, by administration of excess L-arginine (100 mg/kg, i.v.). Our findings suggest that excessive nitric oxide production mediates the hypotensive effect of TNF.

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