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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1993 Jan 15;90(2):522-6.

Cytokines, endotoxin, and glucocorticoids regulate the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase in hepatocytes.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15261.


Nitric oxide (NO.) is a short-lived mediator which can be induced in a variety of cell types and produces many physiologic and metabolic changes in target cells. The inducible or high-output NO. synthase (NOS) pathway was first characterized in macrophages activated by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and interferon gamma (IFN-gamma). Hepatocytes also express an inducible NOS following exposure to the combination of endotoxin (LPS) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF), interleukin 1 (IL-1), and IFN-gamma. In this study, to identify which of these cytokines, if any, was acting to induce the gene expression for hepatocyte NOS, we measured the levels of rat hepatocyte NOS mRNA by Northern blot analysis after stimulation by various combinations of endotoxin and cytokines in vitro. We found the mRNA for hepatocyte NOS to be a single band at approximately 4.5 kilobases which was maximally up-regulated (approximately 70-fold) by the combination of TNF, IL-1, IFN-gamma, and LPS. Abundance of NOS mRNA peaked 6-8 hr after stimulation and then declined by 25% at 24 hr. Unstimulated hepatocytes in vitro showed only a trace mRNA band after prolonged autoradiographic exposure. As single agents, TNF and IL-1 were the most effective inducers of hepatocyte NOS mRNA. Combinations of two or three stimuli revealed strong synergy between TNF, IL-1, and IFN-gamma. The increased mRNA levels correlated with elevated nitrogen oxide release and cGMP levels in the culture supernatants. Dexamethasone and cycloheximide inhibited induction of mRNA for hepatocyte NOS in a dose-dependent fashion. The addition of NG-monomethyl-L-arginine had no effect on mRNA levels but effectively blocked NO. formation. The inducible hepatocyte NOS mRNA was also detected in rat hepatocytes following chronic hepatic inflammation triggered by Corynebacterium parvum injection in vivo. These data demonstrate that the inducible NOS is functional in rat hepatocytes both in vitro and in vivo and that this pathway is under complex control. Endotoxin and inflammatory cytokines act synergistically to up-regulate gene expression for hepatocyte NOS, whereas glucocorticoids down-regulate the mRNA.

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