Nitric oxide: cytokine-regulation of nitric oxide in host resistance to intracellular pathogens

Immunol Lett. 1994 Dec;43(1-2):87-94. doi: 10.1016/0165-2478(94)00158-8.


To discover how nitric oxide (NO) synthesis is controlled in different tissues as cells within these tissues combat intracellular pathogens, we examined three distinctively different experimental murine models designed for studying parasite-host interactions: macrophage killing of Leishmania major; nonspecific protection against tularemia (Francisella tularensis) by Mycobacterium bovis (BCG); and specific vaccine-induced protection against hepatic malaria with Plasmodium berghei. Each model parasite and host system provides information on the source and role of NO during infection and the factors that induce or inhibit its production. The in vitro assay for macrophage antimicrobial activity against L. major identified cytokines involved in regulating NO-mediated killing of this intracellular protozoan. L. major induced the production of two competing cytokines in infected macrophages: (1) the parasite activated the gene for tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and production of TNF protein was enhanced by the presence of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma). TNF then acted as a autocrine signal to amplify IFN-gamma-induced production of NO; and (2) the parasite upregulated production of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), which blocked IFN-gamma-induced production of NO. Whether parasite-induced TNF (parasite destruction) or TGF-beta (parasite survival) prevailed depended upon the presence and quantity of IFN-gamma at the time of infection. The relationship between NO production in vivo and host resistance to infection was demonstrated with M. bovis (BCG).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Oxidoreductases / biosynthesis
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / physiology*
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Leishmaniasis / immunology
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / immunology
  • Malaria / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mycobacterium bovis / immunology
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis
  • Nitric Oxide / immunology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Tuberculosis / immunology
  • Tularemia / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Amino Acid Oxidoreductases