The synthesis of nitric oxide in inflammatory situations requires the expression of an inducible isoform of nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). Human mesangial cells (HMC) express an iNOS enzyme after exposure to multiple co-stimuli. In this study we have observed that while tumour necrosis factor-α, interleukin (IL)-1β, interferon-γ and bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) were unable to significantly induce NO synthesis when used alone, they induced an evident stimulation of NO synthesis when used in various combinations. A mixture of the three cytokines (CM) and LPS resulted in a 10-15-fold stimulation of NO synthesis over control values which started to be significant after 16 h. The addition of IL-13, a cytokine with anti-inflammatory properties, inhibited CM/LPS-induced NO synthesis in a concentration-dependent manner. A marked inhibitory effect (60-65%) could be observed when HMC were treated with IL-13 (10 ng/ml) 24 h before, at the same time as, or even 4 h after the addition of CM/LPS. This inhibitory effect was still significant (25%) when IL-13 was added 16 h after CM/LPS. Northern analysis showed that IL-13-mediated iNOS inhibition was closely correlated with the suppression of iNOS mRNA expression. These results identify IL-13 as a powerful regulatory tool for the inhibition of NO synthesis in human cells, a property which may be pathophysiologically relevant in NO-related inflammatory processes.

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