Role of nitric oxide in mediation of macrophage cytotoxicity and apoptosis

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 1998 Mar;17(1):39-53. doi: 10.1023/a:1005904704618.


Macrophages can recognize and eliminate tumor cells. To this effect, these cells use a variety of cytotoxic effectors. Recent work has paid particular attention to nitric oxide (NO) and its metabolic by-products in mediating macrophage tumor cytotoxicity. Moreover, work from this and other laboratories have indicated that macrophage-dependent, NO mediated tumor cell death meets the morphologic and molecular criteria that define apoptotic cell death. This review will initially discuss the characteristics of macrophage tumor cytotoxicity and the potential mechanisms by which NO can induce apoptosis in tumor cells. In addition, observations of spontaneous and acquired resistance to NO will be analyzed. Lastly, the relevance of results obtained using animal cells to the biology of the human macrophage will be considered.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*


  • Nitric Oxide