Expression of a muscle-specific, nitric oxide synthase transgene prevents muscle membrane injury and reduces muscle inflammation during modified muscle use in mice

J Physiol. 2003 Jul 15;550(Pt 2):347-56. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2003.040907. Epub 2003 May 23.


Nitric oxide (NO) can function as either a pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory molecule, depending upon its concentration and the microenvironment in which it is produced. We tested whether muscle-derived NO affects muscle inflammation and membrane lysis that occur in modified muscle use. Transgenic mice with muscle-specific over-expression of neuronal NO synthase (nNOS) were generated in which transgene expression was driven by the human skeletal muscle actin promoter. Transgenic mice and non-transgenic littermates were subjected to hindlimb muscle unloading followed by reloading, which causes muscle inflammation and membrane lysis. NOS expression decreased in transgenic and non-transgenic mice during muscle unloading. Muscle inflammation was assessed by immunohistochemistry after 24 h of muscle reloading following 10 days of unloading. Soleus muscles of non-transgenic mice showed significant increases in the concentrations of neutrophils (4.8-fold) and macrophages (11.3-fold) during reloading, compared to mice that experienced unloading only. Muscles of transgenic mice showed 51 % fewer neutrophils in reloaded muscles than those of non-transgenic mice, but macrophage concentrations did not differ from non-transgenic mice. Muscle membrane damage was determined by measuring influx of an extracellular marker dye. Significantly more membrane damage occurred in muscles of non-transgenic mice experiencing reloading than in ambulatory controls. However, membrane damage in the reloaded muscles of transgenic mice did not differ from that in ambulatory mice. In vitro cytotoxicity assays confirmed that mouse neutrophils lyse muscle cell membranes, and showed that inhibition of NOS in muscle and neutrophil co-cultures significantly increased neutrophil-mediated lysis of muscle cells. Together, these data show that muscle-derived NO can function as an anti-inflammatory molecule in muscle that experiences modified loading, and that NO can prevent neutrophil-mediated damage of muscle cell membranes in vivo and in vitro.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Membrane / enzymology
  • Cell Membrane / pathology
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Hindlimb / physiology
  • Hindlimb Suspension
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / enzymology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Myositis / enzymology*
  • Myositis / pathology
  • NG-Nitroarginine Methyl Ester / pharmacology
  • Neutrophil Infiltration / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / biosynthesis*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / genetics*
  • Transgenes / genetics*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • NG-Nitroarginine Methyl Ester