Background: The Ity/Lsh/Bcg gene on mouse chromosome 1 regulates priming/activation of macrophages for antimicrobial and tumouricidal activity. A candidate gene expressed in macrophages has been identified by positional cloning and full-length sequence analysis, and encodes the Natural resistance-associated macrophage protein (Nramp). In this study, we have tested the hypothesis that the Nramp gene corresponds to Ity/Lsh/Bcg.
Materials and methods: In vitro transfection was used to introduce the resistant allele into the macrophage cell line RAW 264.7 derived from the recessive susceptible BALB/c mouse strain. Expression of the transgene was monitored on the background of the endogenous susceptible allele by allele-specific oligonucleotide hybridization.
Results: Expression of the transgene correlated with three Lshr-associated lipopolysaccharide/interferon-gamma-regulated macrophage activation phenotypes: respiratory burst, nitrite release, and uptake of L-arginine. Endogenous and stimulated L-arginine fluxes were inhibitable with the radical scavengers nordihydroguaiaretic acid and butylated hydroxyanisole. The mitochondrial electron transport inhibitors, rotenone and thenoyltrifluoroacetone, inhibited respiratory burst, and rotenone suppressed L-arginine flux, implying that mitochondrial-derived oxygen radicals are important mediators in Nramp-regulated signal transduction pathways.
Conclusions: These data provide the first direct evidence that Nramp is the product of the Ity/Lsh/Bcg gene, and are consistent with the hypothesis that the many pleiotropic effects of this gene on macrophage activation may all derive from the requirement for mitochondrial generation of oxygen radicals for intracellular signaling.