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Int Immunol. 1998 Jan;10(1):61-9.

Involvement of NO in contact hypersensitivity.

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Department of Dermatology, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany.


The NO synthases (NOS) generate NO from L-arginine. High concentrations of NO have been shown to be responsible for tissue injury and cell death, while low concentrations of NO induce vasodilatation and other signaling effects. We have investigated the involvement of NO in contact hypersensitivity (CHS) reactions. CHS induced by treatment of BALB/c mice with the contact allergen 2,4-dinitrofluorobenzene (DNFB) was significantly reduced by the NOS inhibitor N-methyl-L-arginine (L-NMA), but not by the stereoisomer D-NMA, as shown by reduced ear swelling responses and evaluation of ear tissue sections. The CHS response was also reduced by aminoguanidine, which is known to preferentially inhibit the inducible isoform of the enzyme (iNOS), suggesting that iNOS contributed to the inflammatory response. We therefore investigated whether iNOS was expressed by epidermal cells. Epidermal Langerhans cells produced low but significant amounts of iNOS mRNA at the single-cell level as indicated by RT-PCR. Likewise, keratinocytes expressed basic iNOS mRNA levels. Elicitation of a CHS response by DNFB in vivo resulted in enhanced iNOS mRNA expression in Langerhans cells and keratinocytes, with higher levels of expression in Langerhans cells. The enhanced mRNA expression in Langerhans cells correlated with iNOS protein production as shown by immunofluorescence staining of epidermal sheets performing double staining with anti-iNOS and anti-MHC class II antibodies. Our data suggest that epidermal cell-derived NO contributes to the ear swelling reaction in CHS.

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