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J Immunol. 1991 Apr 15;146(8):2719-23.

Molecular basis of "suppressor" macrophages. Arginine metabolism via the nitric oxide synthetase pathway.

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Department of Surgery, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence 02903.


A molecular explanation for "suppressor" macrophage inhibition of lymphocyte proliferation is described. NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (NGMMA), a specific inhibitor of the nitric oxide synthetase pathway, markedly augments Con A-induced proliferation of rat splenic leukocytes. Macrophages are necessary and sufficient for NGMMA-releasable-suppression, as indicated by a loss of suppression after either pretreatment of isolated splenic macrophages with NGMMA or their depletion by plastic adherence or L-leucine methyl ester. L- (but not D-) arginine overrides NGMMA-releasable suppression, and suppression is blocked by RBC as would be expected if nitric oxide were the effector molecule. Unlike rats, NGMMA did not augment Con A-induced proliferation of normal mouse splenic leukocytes. However, NGMMA did augment Con A-induced proliferation of mouse splenic leukocytes induced to contain suppressor macrophages by intravenous injection of Corynebacterium parvum, which suggests a quantitative, not qualitative, difference in suppressor macrophages between rats and mice. Nitrite production, as an indicator of nitric oxide synthesis, correlated with suppressor macrophage activity in rats and mice and was inhibited by NGMMA. Finally, NGMMA also markedly enhanced proliferation with every other mitogen examined (PHA, protein A, PWM, and LPS). It is concluded that immunoregulation of lymphocyte proliferation by suppressor macrophages is mediated, in part, directly or indirectly by products of the nitric oxide synthetase pathway.

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