Antiapoptotic role of endogenous nitric oxide in human melanoma cells

O. Salvucci, M. Carsana, I. Bersani, G. Tragni, A. Anichini

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The role of endogenous NO on cell survival was investigated in human melanoma cells and melanocytes. Inducible NO synthase (iNOS) was always expressed in a panel of melanoma cell lines from metastatic lesions and in normal adult melanocytes. iNOS was also detected by immunohistochemistry in melanoma cells from metastases. Release of NO by tumor cells and melanocytes was inhibited by a specific iNOS inhibitor, aminoguanidine (AMG). Inhibition of endogenous NO synthesis did not affect cell cycle progression of melanoma cells but led to cell death by apoptosis, as indicated by Annexin V/propidium iodide and terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling assays. By contrast, iNOS inhibition by AMG did not promote apoptosis in normal adult melanocytes. A mitochondrial pathway was involved in melanoma apoptosis, as indicated by altered mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm) and down-regulation of Bcl-2 protein level after iNOS inhibition. AMG treatment triggered release of caspase-1, enzymatic activation of caspase-3, and degradation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, one of the main caspase-3 substrates. Melanoma cell apoptosis induced by iNOS inhibition was completely blocked by peptide inhibitors of caspase-1 and caspase-3 (Ac-DEVD-CHO and AC-YVAD-CHO) or by an exogenous NO donor, sodium nitroprusside, or by addition of serum. Finally, comparison of control and AMG-treated melanoma cells by pathway-specific gene array analysis indicated that inhibition of NO synthesis led, before induction of apoptosis, to up-regulation of mRNA levels of genes involved in the apoptosis pathway such as Bax, caspase-1, caspase-3, caspase-6, gadd45β, mdm2, and TRAIL. Taken together, these results indicate that melanoma cell survival is regulated by endogenous NO resulting from iNOS activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-326
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology

Cite this

Salvucci, O., Carsana, M., Bersani, I., Tragni, G., & Anichini, A. (2001). Antiapoptotic role of endogenous nitric oxide in human melanoma cells. Cancer Research, 61(1), 318-326.