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Nitric Oxide. 1998;2(3):174-86.

Induction of nitric oxide in human monocytes and monocyte cell lines by Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Texas Medical School, Houston 77030, USA.


The induction of nitric oxide in human monocytes during mycobacterial infection has been a controversial issue. This study describes a comparative evaluation of the colorimetric and fluorometric methods for the detection of NO in response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) infection in human peripheral blood-derived monocytes (PBM) and in U937, a human monocyte-derived cell line. MTB was grown in monocyte cultures in vitro for 7 or 10 days. RPMI 1640 medium, without antibiotics and supplemented with L-arginine, Hepes, 5% human AB serum, and tetrahydrobiopterin was used to support monocyte growth. As early as 72 h after infection, soluble nitrite was detectable in the medium using the fluorometric assay with diaminonaphthalene (DAN). Early induction of NO correlated with an increase in the levels of iNOS mRNA as quantitated by RT-PCR. NO levels increased progressively up to day 10 (PBM) or day 7 (U937), when 150-200 nM/10(6) cells of soluble nitrite accumulated in cultures, as measured by DAN. Furthermore, monocytes stained positively for human iNOS protein and peroxynitrite after infection with MTB. The induction of NO by MTB was inhibited by four different inhibitors of iNOS enzyme including N-monomethylarginine. Inhibition of NO resulted in the enhancement of the intracellular growth of two of five clinical isolates of MTB. NO released from a donor (S-nitroso-N-penicillamine) also had a direct bacteriostatic effect on the same isolates in broth cultures. MTB strains thus showed a differential susceptibility to intracellular and extracellular NO. In most of these assays, the Greiss reagent was limited by its sensitivity and remained negative for soluble nitrite throughout the 7-10 days of incubation. Thus, the colorimetric method, which is widely used, may give false-negative results in NO assays. This report also demonstrates for the first time that MTB induces mRNA for iNOS, iNOS protein, NO, and peroxynitrite in human monocyte/macrophage cultures.

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