Nitric oxide (NO) is an important mediator of the inflammatory response. MRL-lpr/lpr mice overexpress inducible nitric oxide synthase (NOS2) and overproduce NO in parallel with the development of an autoimmune syndrome with a variety of inflammatory manifestations. In previous studies, we showed that inhibiting NO production with the nonselective nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor N(G)-monomethyl-arginine reduced glomerulonephritis, arthritis, and vasculitis in MRL-lpr/lpr mice. To define further the role of NO and NOS2 in disease in MRL-lpr/lpr mice, mice with targeted disruption of NOS2 were produced by homologous recombination and bred to MRL-lpr/lpr mice to the N4 generation. MRL-lpr/lpr littermates homozygous for disrupted NOS2 (-/-), heterozygous for disrupted NOS2 (+/-), or wild-type (+/+) were derived for this study. Measures of NO production were markedly decreased in the MRL- lpr/lpr (-/-) mice compared with MRL-lpr/lpr (+/+) mice, with intermediate production by the MRL-lpr/lpr (+/-) mice. There was no detectable NOS2 protein by immunoblot analysis of the spleen, liver, kidney, and peritoneal macrophages of the (-/-) animals, whereas that of (+/+) was high and (+/-) intermediate. The (-/-) mice developed glomerular and synovial pathology similar to that of the (+/-) and (+/+) mice. However, (-/-) mice and (+/-) mice had significantly less vasculitis of medium-sized renal vessels than (+/+) mice. IgG rheumatoid factor levels were significantly lower in the (- /-) mice as compared with (+/+) mice, but levels of anti-DNA antibodies were comparable in all groups. Our findings show that NO derived from NOS2 has a variable impact on disease manifestations in MRL-lpr/lpr mice, suggesting heterogeneity in disease mechanisms.
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