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J Pathol. 1998 Dec;186(4):416-21.

Expression of nitric oxide synthases and formation of nitrotyrosine and reactive oxygen species in inflammatory bowel disease.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital Groningen, The Netherlands.


Nitric oxide (NO) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) are important mediators in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). NO in IBD can be either harmful or protective. NO can react with superoxide anions (O2.-), yielding the toxic oxidizing agent peroxynitrite (ONOO-). Peroxynitrite induces nitration of tyrosine residues (nitrotyrosine), leading to changes of protein structure and function. The aim of this study was to identify the cellular source of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and to localize superoxide anion-producing cells in mucosal biopsies from patients with active IBD. Additional studies were performed to look at nitrotyrosine formation as a measure of peroxynitrite-mediated tissue damage. For this, antibodies against iNOS, endothelial NOS (eNOS), and nitrotyrosine were used. ROS-producing cells were detected cytochemically. Inflamed mucosa of patients with active IBD showed intense iNOS staining in the epithelial cells. iNOS could not be detected in non-inflamed mucosa of IBD patients and control subjects. eNOS was present in blood vessels, without any difference in the staining intensity between IBD patients and control subjects. ROS-producing cells were increased in the lamina propria of IBD patients; a fraction of these cells were CD15-positive. Nitrotyrosine formation was found on ROS-positive cells. These results show that iNOS is induced in epithelial cells from patients with active ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. Nitration of proteins was detected only on the ROS-producing cells at some distance from the iNOS-producing epithelial cells. These findings indicate that tissue damage during active inflammation in IBD patients is probably more related to ROS-producing cells than to NO. One may speculate that NO has a protective role when during active inflammation other mucosal defence systems are impaired.

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