Regulation of nitric oxide synthase activity in cultured human endothelial cells: Effect of antioxidants

Helen F. Galley*, Barry E. Walker, Peter D. Howdle, Nigel R. Webster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Nitric oxide release is induced in many cells, including vascular endothelium, as part of the host response to inflammation. Nitric oxide synthase activity is increased in patients with sepsis, associated with increased oxidant demands and decreased antioxidant protection. We used a human vascular endothelial cell line to investigate the influence of antioxidants on nitric oxide synthase activity. Cells were cultured to confluence and incubated with interferon gamma, tumor necrosis factor, and lipopolysaccharide in the combined presence of the antioxidants ascorbic acid, Trolox, catalase, or superoxide dismutase, singly and in combination, for 48 h. Additionally, some cells were incubated with hypoxanthine-xanthine oxidase or a nitric oxide donor. Nitric oxide synthase activity was upregulated by cytokine exposure (p < .0005). Ascorbic acid and superoxide dismutase/catalase resulted in decreased enzyme activity (p < .05). Superoxide anion release from xanthine oxidase caused increased activity (p < .05) and exogenous nitric oxide tended to suppress synthase activity. We suggest that antioxidants scavenge superoxide anion, enabling feedback inhibition of nitric oxide synthase activity by nitric oxide, and thus reducing enzyme activity. Exogenous nitric oxide also has a similar effect. Superoxide generation suppresses this feedback inhibition. This study has important implications in patients with sepsis in whom nitric oxide synthase inhibitor therapy is currently under investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-101
Number of pages5
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996

Bibliographical note

We acknowledge the financial support of the Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust (Grant number 92/25A). In addition, EA.hy926 human endothelial cells were generously provided by Dr. A. Jamieson from Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, Cheshire, UK, with permission from Dr. C. J. S. Edgell of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC. Thanks are also due to Norma Richardson, Rekha Parmar, Morgan Blaylock, and Anne Dubbels for excellent technical assistance.


  • Antioxidant
  • Endothelium
  • Free radicals
  • Nitric oxide
  • Sepsis
  • Xanthine oxidase


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