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Infect Immun. 1994 Mar;62(3):1089-100.

Nitric oxide produced during murine listeriosis is protective.

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Department of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


Nitric oxide (NO) has been shown to be important for intracellular microbiostasis in vitro. To determine the role of NO in immune function in vivo, groups of C57BL/6 mice were given a sublethal intravenous inoculum of Listeria monocytogenes EGD, and their urine was monitored daily for nitrate, the mammalian end product of NO metabolism. Urinary nitrate levels peaked at 5 to 10 times the basal level on days 5 to 6, when spleen and liver Listeria counts declined most steeply, and decreased thereafter, when spleens and livers were nearly sterile. Peritoneal macrophages explanted from Listeria-infected mice produced nitrite spontaneously, whereas macrophages from uninfected mice did not. The inducible NO synthase mRNA was detectable in the spleens of infected mice on days 1 to 4 of infection. When Listeria-infected mice were treated orally throughout the infection with NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (NMMA), a specific NO synthase inhibitor they showed no detectable rise in urinary nitrate excretion. Mean Listeria counts in the livers and spleens NMMA-treated mice were 1 to 3 orders of magnitude greater than counts in control mice on days 4 through 8 of infection. Compared with control mice, NMMA-treated mice also showed worse clinical signs of infection, namely, weight loss, hypothermia, decreased food and water intake, and decreased urine output. Histologically NMMA-treated mice had many more inflammatory foci in their livers and spleens than control mice. The histologic observation that mononuclear cells are present at sites of infection suggests that inhibiting NO production did not block the flux of macrophages into infected viscera. As controls for possible drug toxicity, a group of uninfected mice given NMMA orally showed no detrimental effects on weight, temperature, and food and water intake. These experiments demonstrate that inhibition of NO production in Listeria-infected mice results in an exacerbated infection and thus that NO synthesis is important for immune defense against Listeria infection in mice.

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