Macrophages and monocytes are cells with a large capacity for cytokine production. Cytokines produced by these cells are not preformed and released upon stimulation, but must be transcribed and translated. Although much is known concerning the regulation of the latter processes at the molecular level, the role of exogenous amino acids in the secretory process has not been actively investigated. Glutamine is utilized by macrophages at a much faster rate than any other amino acid. The role for high rates of glutamine utilization in macrophages or monocytes is not fully understood. We demonstrate here that the rates of lipopolysaccharide-stimulated tumour necrosis factor-α secretion from bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG)-activated murine peritoneal macrophages and lipopolysaccharide-stimulated interleukin-8 production from human monocytes are dependent upon extracellular glutamine concentration. We also demonstrate that potent inhibition of cytokine production can be achieved by incubating macrophages or monocytes in the presence of the glutaminase inhibitor 6-diazo-5-oxo-norleucine. On co-culture of BCG-activated macrophages and the clonal pancreatic β-cell line BRIN-BD11, macrophage-specific β-cell death was significantly reduced on prior exposure of macrophages to 6-diazo-5-oxo-norleucine. Thus glutamine metabolism may be essential for generation of cytotoxic products from macrophages, including tumour necrosis factor-α.

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