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J Biol Chem. 2001 May 11;276(19):15881-5. Epub 2001 Feb 16.

Sustained nitric oxide production in macrophages requires the arginine transporter CAT2.

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  • 1Cancer Center and Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0064, USA.


The aberrant production of nitric oxide (NO) contributes to the pathogenesis of diseases as diverse as cancer and arthritis. Sustained NO production via the inducible enzyme, nitric-oxide synthase 2 (NOS2), requires extracellular arginine uptake. Three closely related cationic amino acid transporter genes (Cat1-3) encode the transporters that mediate most arginine uptake in mammalian cells. Because CAT2 is induced coordinately with NOS2 in numerous cell types, we investigated a possible role for CAT2-mediated arginine transport in regulating NO production. The complexity of arginine transport systems and their biochemically similar transport properties called for a genetic approach to determine the role of CAT2. CAT2-deficient mice were generated and found to be healthy and fertile in contrast to Cat1(-/-) animals. Analysis of cytokine-activated macrophages from Cat2(-/-) mice revealed a 92% reduction in NO production and a 95% reduction in l-Arg uptake. The reduction in NO production was not due to differences in NOS2 protein expression, NOS2 activity, or intracellular l-arginine content. In conclusion, our results show that sustained abundant NO synthesis by macrophages requires arginine transport via the CAT2 transporter.

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