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Lab Invest. 2000 Sep;80(9):1385-97.

Lethal Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus Calmette Guérin infection in nitric oxide synthase 2-deficient mice: cell-mediated immunity requires nitric oxide synthase 2.

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Department of Pathology, Centre Medical Universitaire, University of Geneva, Switzerland.


The role of nitric oxide (NO) in Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG) infection was investigated using nitric oxide synthase 2 (nos2)-deficient mice, because NO plays a pivotal protective role in M. tuberculosis infection. We demonstrate that nos2-deficient mice were unable to eliminate BCG and succumbed within 8 to 12 weeks to BCG infection (10(6) CFU) with cachexia and pneumonia, whereas all infected wild-type mice survived. The greatest mycobacterial loads were observed in lung and spleen. Nos2-deficient mice developed large granulomas consisting of macrophages and activated T cells and caseous necrotic lesions in spleen. The macrophages in granulomas from nos2-deficient mice had reduced acid phosphatase activities, suggesting that NO is required for macrophage activation. The absence of NOS2 affected the cytokine production of the Th1 type of immune response, except IL-18. Serum amounts of IL-12p40 were increased and IFN-gamma was decreased compared with wild-type mice. The lack of NOS2 resulted in an overproduction of TNF, observed throughout the infection period. Additionally, TNFR1 and TNFR2 shedding was altered compared with wild-type mice. Up-regulation of TNF may be compensatory for the lack of NOS2. The late neutralization of TNF by soluble TNF receptors resulted in heightened disease severity and accelerated death in nos2-deficient mice but had no effect in wild-type mice. In conclusion, the inability of nos2-deficient mice to kill M. bovis BCG resulted in an accumulation of mycobacteria with a dramatic activation of the immune system and overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which resulted in death.

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