Induction of the nitric oxide-synthesizing pathway in fresh and interleukin 2-cultured rat natural killer cells

M. G. Cifone, C. Festuccia, L. Cironi, G. Cavallo, M. A. Chessa, V. Pensa, E. Tubaro, A. Santoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several lines of evidence suggest that nitric oxide (NO), generated through nitric oxide synthase (NOS) by cleavage of terminal guanidino nitrogen from L-arginine, mediates tumor cell killing by mononuclear phagocytes. Natural killer (NK) cells are cytotoxic effector cells that lyse a variety of tumor and virus-infected cells in a MHC-unrestricted manner. NK cells cultured with interleukin 2 proliferate and acquire the ability to lyse a wide range of targets, including NK-resistant tumor cells (LAK activity). The present study was designed to investigate whether a NOS pathway exists in fresh or IL-2-activated NK cells and to assess the importance of NO synthesis in their activation and cytotoxic functions. NKR-P1 triggering, which is known to induce NK cell activation and mediate reverse ADCC, was able to induce arginine metabolism with consequent increase of nitrite and citrulline levels. Moreover, stimulated NO synthesis leads to guanylate cyclase activity with consequent cGMP generation. We also report that cytotoxic activities of fresh or IL-2-activated NK cells appear to be dependent on arginine levels in medium. Tumoricidal activity of both these effector cells, assessed against YAC-1 and P815 target cells, respectively, was indeed significantly reduced when cytotoxic assays were performed in arginine-free medium or in the presence of the L-arginine analog L-N-monomethyl-arginine, which inhibits nitroxide formation from L-arginine. Normal levels of cytotoxic activities could be restored by addition of exogenous L-arginine. NO generation by NK and LAK cells, determined as nitrite, citrulline, and cGMP synthesis, correlated well with their cytotoxic activities. Moreover, NOS activity gradually increased during the LAK generation and correlated well with the increasing capability of IL-2-activated NK cells to lyse NK-resistant targets, such as P815.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-194
Number of pages14
JournalCellular Immunology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Immunology


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