Natural killer (NK) cells are large granular lymphocytes capable of destroying cells infected by virus or bacteria and susceptible tumor cells without prior sensitization and restriction by major histocompatability complex (MHC) antigens. Their cytotoxic activity could be strongly enhanced by interleukin-2 (IL-2). Previous findings, even if obtained with indirect experimental approaches, have suggested a possible involvement of the inducible nitric oxide (iNOS) pathway in the NK-mediated target cell killing. The aim of the present study was first to directly examine the induction of iNOS in IL-2-activated rat NK cells isolated from peripheral blood (PB-NK) or spleen (S-NK), and second to investigate the involvement of the iNOS-derived NO in the cytotoxic function of these cells. Our findings clearly indicate the induction of iNOS expression in IL-2-activated PB-NK and S-NK cells, as evaluated either at mRNA and protein levels. Accordingly, significantly high levels of iNOS activity were shown, as detected by the L-arginine to L- citrulline conversion in appropriate assay conditions. The consequent NO generation appears to partially account for NK cell-mediated DNA fragmentation and lysis of sensitive tumor target cells. In fact, functional inhibition of iNOS through specific inhibitors, as well as the almost complete abrogation of its expression through a specific iNOS mRNA oligodeoxynucleotide antisense, significantly reduced the lyric activity of IL-2-activated NK cells. Moreover, IL-2-induced interferon-γ production appears also to be dependent, at least in part, on iNOS induction.
|Number of pages||9|
|Publication status||Published - Jun 1 1999|
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