Nitric oxide (NO) release as a result of cytokine-mediated activation of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in mesangial cells can be sustained and lead to oxidative injury in various forms of glomerular inflammation. Inhibition of iNOS expression and/or activity could therefore be an effective anti-inflammatory strategy. The present study was undertaken to explore whether retinoids, which are known to have anti-inflammatory and immuno-modulatory actions, can attenuate cytokine-stimulated iNOS expression and enzyme activity in murine mesangial cells. Expression of iNOS was evaluated by NO production (nitrite analysis), protein (Western blot analysis) and mRNA (RT-PCR analysis) levels in mesangial cells stimulated by a combination of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) in the presence and absence of all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) or its active metabolite, 13-cis-retinoic acid (13-cis-RA). Changes in iNOS enzyme activity were assessed by calculating conversion of L-[14C]arginine to L-[14C]citrulline. The levels of transcription factors nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) and activated protein-1 (AP-1) in nuclear extracts prepared from mesangial cells stimulated by a combination of LPS and IFN-gamma in the presence and absence of ATRA was assessed by immunoblot analysis. The effect of both retinoids on transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) levels was also assessed by a quantitative enzyme immunoassay method. The combination of LPS/IFN-gamma stimulated NO production, induced iNOS expression (mRNA and protein) and increased iNOS enzyme activity. ATRA and 13-cis-RA dose-dependently attenuated NO production. This effect was most pronounced at ATRA concentration of 10 microM. At this concentration, ATRA attenuated iNOS expression (mRNA and protein levels) and enzyme activity. ATRA also reduced nuclear levels of both subunits (p50 and p65) of NF-kappaB. TGF-beta1 levels in mesangial cells stimulated with LPS/IFN-gamma in presence of ATRA or 13-cis-RA were also reduced indicating that TGF-beta1 did not mediate the suppressive effect of retinoids on iNOS. Our studies demonstrate that the retinoids ATRA and 13-cis-RA attenuate iNOS expression and activity in cytokine-stimulated murine mesangial cells. These retinoids may emerge as naturally occurring compounds for treatment of inflammatory glomerular diseases.
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