Increased nitric oxide (NO) production may contribute to the pathological changes featuring in some inflammatory diseases, but the role of NO in chronic viral hepatitis is still unknown. We compared the inducible NO synthase (NOS2) expression in the liver of patients with chronic viral hepatitis with that of both nonviral liver disease and histologically normal liver. NOS2 expression was assessed by immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization studies of liver biopsy sections. An intense hepatocellular NOS2 reactivity was detected in chronic viral hepatitis, whereas it was weakly or not observed in nonviral liver disease or normal liver, respectively. In addition, we determined whether the hepatitis B virus (HBV) might regulate the synthesis of this enzyme. NOS2 mRNA and protein levels as well as enzyme activity were assessed in cytokine-stimulated HBV-transfected and untransfected hepatoma cells. Transfection with either HBV genome or HBV X gene resulted in induction of NOS2 mRNA expression, and the maximal induction of this transcript and NO production was observed in cytokine-stimulated HBV-transfected cells. These results indicate that hepatotropic viral infections are able to upregulate the NOS2 gene expression in human hepatocytes, suggesting that NO may mediate important pathogenic events in the course of chronic viral hepatitis.


P L Majano, C García-Monzón, M López-Cabrera, E Lara-Pezzi, E Fernández-Ruiz, C García-Iglesias, M J Borque, R Moreno-Otero


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