Contribution of nitric oxide to the apoptotic process in human B cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

Leuk Lymphoma. 2001 Jan;40(3-4):243-57. doi: 10.3109/10428190109057923.


B cell chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (B-CLL) is characterised by defective apoptosis that cannot be explained solely on the basis of the known chromosomal abnormalities. We and other have now reported that the leukemic cells spontaneously display the inducible isoform of nitric oxide synthase, iNOS. Inhibition of the iNOS pathway leads to increased apoptosis of the tumoral cells in vitro, indicating that the endogenous release of NO contributes to their resistance to the normal apoptotic process. The factors that induce the expression of iNOS in vivo in the leukemic cells are not yet identified. Yet, as interaction of B-CLL leukemic cells with bone marrow stromal cells promotes their survival, the involvement of adhesion molecules and integrins may be suspected. The engagement of CD23 stimulates iNOS activation in the tumoral cells, suggesting that in vivo interaction of CD23 with one of its recognised ligands may contribute to iNOS induction. A role for CD40-CD40 ligand interaction may also be hypothesised. The mechanisms involved in the anti-apoptotic role of NO are not fully understood, but may implicate the inhibition of caspase activity, hence the impairment of the Fas pathway. In addition, the mitochondrial membrane potential disruption appears to be a NO-sensitive step in the apoptosis cascade. The presence of a NOS displaying anti-apoptotic properties has now been recognised in different cell types, including various leukaemia. A better knowledge of the mechanisms governing the ultimate fate of NO, anti- versus pro-apoptotic would allow the development of new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of these diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / enzymology*
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / etiology
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell / pathology
  • Nitric Oxide / pharmacology
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / pharmacology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II


  • Nitric Oxide
  • NOS2 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II