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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Dec 1;90(23):11147-51.

Nitric oxide is a mediator of the decrease in cytochrome P450-dependent metabolism caused by immunostimulants.

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  • 1William Harvey Research Institute, St. Bartholomew's Medical College, London, England.


Bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and a diverse array of other immunostimulants and cytokines suppress the metabolism of endogenous and exogenous substances by reducing activity of the hepatic cytochrome P450 mixed-function oxidase system. Although this effect of immunostimulants was first described almost 40 yr ago, the mechanism is obscure. Immunostimulants are now known to cause NO overproduction by cells via induction of nitric oxide synthase. We have investigated whether NO overproduction is involved in suppressing hepatic metabolism by LPS. In vitro treatment of hepatic microsomes with NO, produced by chemical decomposition of 3-morpholinosydnonimine or by nitric oxide synthase, substantially suppressed cytochrome P450-dependent oxygenation reactions. This effect of NO was seen with hepatic microsomes prepared from two species (rat and chicken) and after exposure to chemicals that induce distinct molecular isoforms of cytochromes P450 (beta-naphthoflavone, 3-methylcholanthrene, and phenobarbital). Spectral studies indicate that NO reacts in vitro with both Fe(2+)- and Fe(3+)-hemes in microsomal cytochromes P450. In vivo, LPS diminished the phenobarbital-induced dealkylation of 7-pentoxyresorufin by rat liver microsomes and reduced the apparent P450 content as measured by CO binding. These LPS effects were associated with induction of NO synthesis; LPS-induced NO synthesis showed a strong positive correlation with the severity of cytochrome P450 inhibition. The decrease in both hepatic microsomal P450 activity and CO binding caused by LPS was largely prevented by the selective NO synthase inhibitor N omega-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester. Our findings implicate NO over-production as a major factor mediating the suppression of hepatic metabolism by immunostimulants such as LPS.

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