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J Leukoc Biol. 1999 Jan;65(1):50-8.

Expression of the inducible NO synthase in human monocytic U937 cells allows high output nitric oxide production.

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Institute of Biochemistry, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.


Nitric oxide (NO) produced by inducible NO synthase (iNOS, NOS-2) is an important component of the macrophage-mediated immune defense toward numerous pathogens. Murine macrophages produce NO after cytokine activation, whereas, under similar conditions, human macrophages produce low levels or no NO at all. Although human macrophages can express iNOS mRNA and protein on activation, whether they possess the complete machinery necessary for NO synthesis remains controversial. To define the conditions necessary for human monocytes/macrophages to synthesize NO when expressing a functional iNOS, the human monocytic U937 cell line was engineered to synthesize this enzyme, following infection with a retroviral expression vector containing human hepatic iNOS (DFGiNOS). Northern blot and Western blot analysis confirmed the expression of iNOS in transfected U937 cells both at the RNA and protein levels. NOS enzymatic activity was demonstrated in cell lysates by the conversion of L-[3H]arginine into L-[3H]citrulline and the production of NO by intact cells was measured by nitrite and nitrate accumulation in culture supernatants. When expressing functional iNOS, U937 cells were capable of releasing high levels of NO. NO production was strictly dependent on supplementation of the culture medium with tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) and was not modified by stimulation of the cells with different cytokines. These observations suggest that (1) human monocytic U937 cells contain all the cofactors necessary for NO synthesis, except BH4 and (2) the failure to detect NO in cytokine-stimulated untransfected U937 cells is not due to the presence of a NO-scavenging molecule within these cells nor to the destabilization of iNOS protein. DFGiNOS U937 cells represent a valuable human model to study the role of NO in immunity toward tumors and pathogens.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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