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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1990 May 2;82(9):772-6.

Endothelial cell production of nitrogen oxides in response to interferon gamma in combination with tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-1, or endotoxin.

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  • 1Department of Medical Oncology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030.


Clinical studies using biological response modifiers in cancer therapy have shown that the major dose-limiting toxic effects are hypotension and diffuse microvascular leakage. The cause and pathophysiology of this hypotension remains unknown. Previous experiments have demonstrated that a number of cell types, including endothelial cells, neutrophils, and macrophages, can secrete a potent hypotensive agent--endothelium-derived relaxing factor, which has recently been identified as nitric oxide. In this study, we tested interferon gamma, tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-1, interleukin-2, muramyl dipeptide, and endotoxin for their effects on production of nitrogen oxides by endothelial cells. Interferon gamma, in combination with tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-1 (IL-1), or endotoxin, induced murine brain endothelial cells to secrete nitrites (20-45 microM within 48 hr), which are breakdown products of nitric oxide. Nitrite production was blocked by incubation of endothelial cells in medium without L-arginine, a substrate for nitric-oxide synthase. Accumulation of nitrites was also inhibited by addition of NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA), which acts as a competitive inhibitor of this enzyme. The inhibitory effects of L-NMMA were reversed by addition of excess L-arginine. These results suggest (a) that endothelial cells produce nitric oxide in response to immunomodulators and (b) that endothelial cell-derived nitric oxide plays a role in the development of hypotension in patients treated with tumor necrosis factor or interleukins. Furthermore, administration of substrate analogues such as L-NMMA may favorably alter the toxicity associated with these immunomodulators and result in a higher maximum tolerated dose, with subsequent improvement in the antitumor activity.

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