Adult skeletal muscle regeneration results from activation, proliferation, and fusion of muscle stem cells, such as myogenic precursor cells. Macrophages are consistently present in regenerating skeletal muscles and participate into the repair process. The signals involved in the cross-talk between various macrophage populations and myogenic precursor cells have been only partially identified. In this study, we show a key role of inducible NO synthase (iNOS), expressed by classically activated macrophages in the healing of skeletal muscle. We found that, after sterile injury, iNOS expression is required for effective regeneration of the tissue, as myogenic precursor cells in the muscle of injured iNOS-/- mice fail to proliferate and differentiate. We also found that iNOS modulates inflammatory cell recruitment: damaged muscles of iNOS-/- animals express significantly higher levels of chemokines such as MIP2, MCP1, MIP-1α, and MCP1, and display more infiltrating neutrophils after injury and a persistence of macrophages at later time points. Finally, we found that iNOS expression in the injured muscle is restricted to infiltrating macrophages. To our knowledge, these data thus provide the first evidence that iNOS expression by infiltrating macrophages contributes to muscle regeneration, revealing a novel mechanism of inflammation-dependent muscle healing.
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