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J Immunol. 1993 Apr 1;150(7):2901-9.

Reactive nitrogen intermediates suppress the primary immunologic response to Listeria.

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Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, PA 15213.


Reactive nitrogen intermediates (RNI), e.g., nitric oxide derived from a terminal guanido nitrogen atom of L-arginine, exhibit potent antimicrobial activity in vitro. The function of these intermediates in host defenses in vivo, however, is presently unclear. Experiments were undertaken to determine the role of RNI in the resolution of primary listerial infections of the liver. Serum RNI levels were elevated significantly in mice infected with Listeria monocytogenes. Moreover, a marked increase in RNI production was found in cultures of the parenchymal, as well as the nonparenchymal, liver cells obtained from Listeria-infected mice. RNI did not kill Listeria treated directly, however, nor were they a factor in the listericidal activity exhibited by hepatic cells. Rather, the elevated production of RNI during primary infection appeared to promote the replication of Listeria in vivo. Mice administered NG-monomethyl-L-arginine, a competitive inhibitor of RNI production, exhibited a 10- and a 100-fold reduction in the number of Listeria in their lives on days 3 and 7 postinfection, respectively. In vitro, NG-monomethyl-L-arginine stimulated the Ag-specific proliferation of T lymphocytes derived from Listeria-infected mice at concentrations that inhibited RNI production. These latter findings suggest that the elevated production of RNI during primary listerial infections suppresses host defenses by diminishing the proliferation and, consequently, the biologic response of immune cell populations.

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