Mechanism of neutrophil-induced xanthine dehydrogenase to xanthine oxidase conversion in endothelial cells: evidence of a role for elastase

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1992 Mar;6(3):270-8. doi: 10.1165/ajrcmb/6.3.270.


Activated neutrophils cause conversion of xanthine dehydrogenase to its oxidase form (xanthine oxidase) in endothelial cells, the mechanism of which may be related to the cytotoxic effect of activated neutrophils. The elastase inhibitors, elastatinal, alpha 1-antitrypsin, and MeO-Suc-(Ala)2-Pro-Val-CH2Cl, significantly inhibited xanthine dehydrogenase to oxidase conversion by phorbol myristate acetate-stimulated neutrophils without inhibition of neutrophil adherence to the endothelial cell monolayer. The role of elastase in this enzyme conversion process was confirmed by the ability of purified elastase to cause conversion of xanthine dehydrogenase to xanthine oxidase in intact endothelial cells (or cell extracts) without causing cytotoxicity. In contrast, cathepsin G failed to cause conversion. The kinetics of conversion induced by elastase was relatively rapid, being essentially completed by 30 min. Upon removal of elastase, the effect was slowly (greater than 12 h) reversible and could be inhibited by cycloheximide treatment. Exposure of endothelial cells to hypoxia failed to enhance the elastase-induced conversion. Treatment of endothelial cells with Ca2+ ionophores failed to cause conversion of xanthine dehydrogenase to oxidase, suggesting that intracellular Ca(2+)-activated proteases are not sufficient to induce this process. Neutrophil-induced xanthine dehydrogenase to oxidase conversion was inhibited by concomitant treatment with antibodies to CD11b. The results suggest that activated neutrophils induce conversion of xanthine dehydrogenase to oxidase by secretion of elastase in close proximity to the endothelial cells and that this intimate contact between the two cell types enables high local concentrations of elastase to be attained, which are sufficient to cause xanthine dehydrogenase to xanthine oxidase conversion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcimycin / pharmacology
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cycloheximide / pharmacology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / enzymology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Ionomycin / pharmacology
  • Neutrophils / cytology
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / enzymology*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Pancreas / enzymology
  • Pancreatic Elastase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Pancreatic Elastase / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Reperfusion Injury / enzymology
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate / pharmacology
  • Xanthine Dehydrogenase / metabolism*
  • Xanthine Oxidase / biosynthesis*


  • Calcimycin
  • Ionomycin
  • Cycloheximide
  • Xanthine Dehydrogenase
  • Xanthine Oxidase
  • Pancreatic Elastase
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate
  • Oxygen