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Research Article

Inducible nitric oxide synthase in rat hepatic lipocytes and the effect of nitric oxide on lipocyte contractility.

D C Rockey and J J Chung

Department of Medicine, San Francisco General Hospital, California 94110.

Published March 1995

In liver injury, perisinusoidal cells known as lipocytes (Ito cells) undergo "activation," acquiring smooth muscle-like features and a contractile phenotype. To assess whether contraction of these cells is regulated by nitric oxide (NO), we examined the production of NO by lipocytes and the effect of NO on lipocyte contractility. Cultured lipocytes were exposed to cytokines and/or LPS. Single agents had little or no effect on the level of inducible NO synthase (iNOS) mRNA. However, interleukin-1 beta (IL-1 beta), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), or LPS in combination with interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) stimulated iNOS mRNA, which was present within 4 h after exposure. iNOS mRNA levels were paralleled by changes in nitrite (a metabolic product of NO). Intraperitoneal administration of IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, and LPS led to rapid induction of iNOS mRNA in lipocytes, confirming in vivo the culture findings. Ligation of the common hepatic bile duct, which induces periportal-based liver injury, stimulated iNOS mRNA in lipocytes. Transforming growth factor-beta 1 decreased IFN-gamma/TNF-alpha--stimulated iNOS mRNA and nitrite. Finally, the effect of NO on lipocyte contractility was examined. In cells incubated with IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, the contractile response to either serum or endothelin-1 was blocked. Contraction was restored entirely by an inhibitor of NO synthase, NG-monomethylarginine. Furthermore, 8-bromoguanosine 3':5'-cyclic monophosphate and sodium nitroprusside inhibited lipocyte contractility, consistent with the effect of NO induced by cytokines. We conclude that NO is a potent modulator of lipocyte contractility and may regulate this function by autocrine (or intracrine) mechanisms. Moreover, NO may play an important role in liver injury, countering the effect of contractile agonists on lipocytes.

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