Treatment of astroglial cells with interleukin 1β and interferon γ transcriptionally activates the nitric oxide synthase (NOS)-2 gene. The duration of mRNA expression is brief because of transcript instability. In addition, NO donors reduce the expression of NOS-2 mRNA dramatically by reducing the rate of transcription. In this study we observed that the NO donor, spermine NONOate did not inhibit the activation and translocation of NF-κB, a key transcription factor in the induction of NOS-2, but inhibited formation of the NF-κB–DNA complex. This effect was reversed by methaemoglobin (acting as an NO trap) and by the reducing agent dithiothreitol. Formation of the interferon-regulatory factor–DNA complex was unaffected by NO. These results suggest that NO can modulate its own production by interfering with NF-κB interaction with the promoter region of the NOS gene, a negative feedback effect that may be important for limiting NO production in vivo.

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Author notes


Present address: Children's Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, U.S.A.