Background: Stimulation of C3H 10T1/2 murine fibroblasts with interferon-gamma(IFN) and bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) generates reactive oxygen and nitrogen species leading to DNA damage, lipid oxidation, and tocopherol oxidation. The tocopherols possess unique chemical and biological properties that suggest they have important roles related to intracellular defense against radical-mediated damage.
Results: Despite increased levels of reactive oxidants and decreased media tocopherol, cellular levels of gamma-tocopherol, but not alpha-tocopherol, were observed to increase significantly when cells were treated with IFN/LPS. Inhibition of nitric oxide (NO) synthesis by a specific inhibitor of inducible NO synthase (iNOS) increased both intracellular alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol concentrations, but did not significantly alter the reduction in media tocopherol levels caused by IFN/LPS treatment. Both exposure to exogenous NO and cellular synthesis of NO in cell culture increased media levels of 8-epi-prostaglandin F2alpha, a marker of oxidative lipid damage, whereas inhibition of endogenous NO synthesis reduced media 8-epi-prostaglandin F2alpha formation to control levels.
Conclusion: Elevated intracellular levels of gamma-tocopherol in response to the cellular inflammatory state may indicate that it serves a unique role in minimizing cellular damage resulting from endogenous NO synthesis. Results of the current study suggest that NO is an important mediator of damage within the cell, as well as in the oxidation of both alpha- and gamma-tocopherols. The paradoxical increase in cellular tocopherol associated with the induction of NO synthesis may indicate either enhanced cellular transport/decreased export for tocopherols or recruitment of free tocopherol from tocopherol storage molecules.