Regulation of nitric oxide synthase induction by iron and glutathione in asbestos-treated human lung epithelial cells

Arch Biochem Biophys. 1998 Dec 1;360(1):47-52. doi: 10.1006/abbi.1998.0950.


Treatment of human lung epithelial (A549) cells with crocidolite asbestos resulted in the induction of the inducible form of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), production of NO, and a dramatic decrease in intracellular reduced glutathione (GSH). Iron, mobilized from the crocidolite fibers (27% iron by weight), and the formation of NO were required for the formation of 2'-deoxy-7-hydro-8-oxoguanosine in the DNA of the A549 cells, but not for the decrease in GSH. Therefore, we investigated the role of GSH and iron in the induction of iNOS in A549 cells by crocidolite. Iron was required for the induction of iNOS by crocidolite. A fivefold higher amount of chrysotile asbestos (3% iron by weight) was required to cause a similar decrease in intracellular GSH and induction of iNOS. In the absence of asbestos, treatment with either buthionine sulfoximine (BSO), an inhibitor of gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase, or ferric ammonium citrate (FAC), a soluble form of iron, did not result in induction of iNOS. However, iNOS was induced when A549 cells were treated simultaneously with BSO and FAC. The presence of 5 mM N-acetylcysteine prevented induction of iNOS in crocidolite-treated A549 cells. These observations suggest that the induction of iNOS resulted from a decrease in intracellular GSH and the presence of iron from the asbestos fibers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Asbestos / pharmacology*
  • Asbestos, Crocidolite / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / enzymology*
  • Glutathione / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Iron / physiology*
  • Lung / cytology
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Lung / enzymology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / biosynthesis*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / drug effects
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Asbestos, Crocidolite
  • Asbestos
  • Iron
  • NOS2 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Glutathione