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Carcinogenesis. 1994 Dec;15(12):2875-7.

Woodchuck hepatitis virus surface antigen induces nitric oxide synthesis in hepatocytes: possible role in hepatocarcinogenesis.

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  • 1Institute of Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.


Woodchuck hepatitis virus surface antigen (WHsAg) stimulated hepatocytes in culture to produce nitric oxide (NO.), as evidenced by the accumulation of nitrite in the medium. NO. synthesis by hepatocytes was positively correlated with WHsAg concentration. WHsAg-induced NO. synthesis was inhibited by NG-monomethyl-L-arginine and anti-WHsAg antibody. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of an increase in NO. formation by a viral antigen. These data, when considered in the light of the known genotoxicity of NO., raise the possibility that viral hepatitis increases the risk of liver cancer by increasing the production of NO.. Long-term elevated production of NO. free radicals due to stimulation by WHsAg in chronic hepatitis may directly cause reactions with cellular DNA leading to mutagenesis, as well as the formation of hepatocarcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. This provides a new mechanism by which hepatitis B virus infection might hypothetically increase the risk of liver cancer.

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