Endothelioma cell lines transformed by polyoma virus middle T antigen (mTa) cause cavernous hemangiomas in syngeneic mice by recruitment of host cells. The production of nitric oxide (NO), as measured by nitrite and citrulline production, was significantly higher in mTa-transformed endothelial cells in comparison with nontransformed control cells. The maximal activity of NO synthase (NOS) was about 200-fold higher in cell lysates from the tEnd.1 endothelioma cell line than in lysates from nontransformed controls, whereas the affinity for arginine did not differ. The biochemical characterization of NOS and the study of mRNA transcripts indicate that tEnd.1 cells express both the inducible and the constitutive isoforms. NOS hyperactivity is not a simple consequence of cell transformation but needs a tissue-specific mTa expression. Since tEnd.1- conditioned medium induces NOS activity in normal endothelial cells, most likely NOS hyperactivity in endothelioma cells is attributable to the release of a soluble factor. This NOS-activating factor, which seems to be an anionic protein, could stimulate tEnd.1 cells to express NOS by an autocrine way. By the same mechanism, tEnd.1 cells could induce NOS in the neighboring endothelial cells, and NO release could play a role in the hemangioma development. Such hypothesis is confirmed by our in vivo experiments, showing that the administration of the NOS inhibitor L-canavanine to endothelioma- bearing mice significantly reduced both the volume and the relapse time of the tumor.
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