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Nitric Oxide. 2001 Aug;5(4):349-60.

N-acetylcysteine inhibits in vivo nitric oxide production by inducible nitric oxide synthase.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, via G. Campi 287, Modena, 41100, Italy.


This in vivo study evaluates the effect of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) administration on nitric oxide (NO) production by the inducible form of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). NO production was induced in the rat by the ip administration of 2 mg/100 g lipopolysaccharide (LPS). This treatment caused: (1) a decrease in body temperature within 90 min, followed by a slow return to normal levels; (2) an increase in plasma levels of urea, nitrite/nitrate, and citrulline; (3) the appearance in blood of nitrosyl-hemoglobin (NO-Hb) and in liver of dinitrosyl-iron-dithiolate complexes (DNIC); and (4) increased expression of iNOS mRNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Rat treatment with 15 mg/100 g NAC ip, 30 min before LPS, resulted in a significant decrease in blood NO-Hb levels, plasma nitrite/nitrate and citrulline concentrations, and liver DNIC complexes. PBMC also showed a decreased expression of iNOS mRNA. NAC pretreatment did not modify the increased levels of plasma urea or the hypothermic effect induced by the endotoxin. The administration of NAC following LPS intoxication (15 min prior to sacrifice) did not affect NO-Hb levels. These results demonstrate that NAC administration can modulate the massive NO production induced by LPS. This can be attributed mostly to the inhibitory effect of NAC on one of the events leading to iNOS protein expression. This hypothesis is also supported by the lack of effect of late NAC administration.

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