Nitric oxide contributes to LPS/IFN-γ-induced macrophage apoptosis via JNK and BCL-2 family regulation

Aurora Rachel Seminara, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and interferon-gamma (IFN) activate macrophages and produce nitric oxide (NO) by initiating the expression of inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase (iNOS). Prolonged LPS/IFN-activation results in the death of macrophage-like RAW 264.7 cells and wild-type murine macrophages. This study was implemented to determine how NO contributes to LPS/IFN-induced macrophage death. The iNOS-specific inhibitor L-NIL protected RAW 264.7 cells from LPS/IFN-activated death, supporting a role for NO in the death of LPS/IFN-activated macrophages. A role for iNOS in cell death was confirmed in iNOS-/- macrophages which were resistant to LPS/IFN-induced death. Cell death was accompanied by nuclear condensation, caspase 3 activation, and PARP cleavage, all of which are hallmarks of apoptosis. The involvement of NO in modulating the stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK)/c-jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signal transduction pathway was examined as a possible mechanism of LPS/IFN-mediated apoptosis. Western analysis demonstrated that NO modifies the phosphorylation profile of JNK and promotes activation of JNK in the mitochondria in RAW 264.7 cells. Inhibition of JNK with sIRNA significantly reduced cell death in RAW 264.7 cells, indicating the participation of the JNK pathway in LPS/IFN-mediated death. JNK has been demonstrated to induce mitochondrial-mediated apoptosis through modulation of Bcl-2 family members. Therefore, the effect of NO on the balance between pro- and anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members was examined. In RAW 264.7 cells, Bim was upregulated and phosphorylated by LPS/IFN independently of NO. However, co-immunoprecipitation studies demonstrated that NO promotes the association of Bax with the BimL splice variant. Examination of Bax phosphorylation by metabolic labeling demonstrated that Bax is basally phosphorylated and becomes dephosphorylated upon LPS/IFN treatment. L-NIL inhibited the dephosphorylation of Bax, indicating that Bax dephosphorylation is NO-dependent. NO also mediated LPS/IFN-induced downregulation of Mcl-1, an anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family member, as demonstrated by Western blotting for Mcl-1 protein expression. Thus, NO contributes to macrophage apoptosis via a JNK-mediated mechanism involving interaction between Bax and Bim, dephosphorylation of Bax, and downregulation of Mcl-1.

Subject Area

Molecular biology|Immunology|Cellular biology

Recommended Citation

Seminara, Aurora Rachel, "Nitric oxide contributes to LPS/IFN-γ-induced macrophage apoptosis via JNK and BCL-2 family regulation" (2005). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3195268.