Cytokine-stimulated nitric oxide production in the human renal proximal tubule and its modulation by natriuretic peptides: A novel immunomodulatory mechanism?

P K Chatterjee, G M Hawksworth, J S McLay

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Although the importance of the human kidney in a variety of disease states is well recognised, the exact mechanisms involved remain unclear. Animal disease models suggest that while high local concentrations of nitric oxide (NO) may play a key role in the initiation and progression of renal disease, low levels may also be essential for normal renal function and cell protection, possibly explaining the variable reports of both beneficial and detrimental responses of renal disease models following NO inhibition. NO has both physiological and pathological roles and clearly a balance between these two primary roles is likely to prevail leading to the conclusion that partial rather than total inhibition of NO production may be beneficial. Despite increasing evidence for the role of NO from animal disease models, little is known of the role of NO and potential modulators within the human kidney. In this review we describe three series of studies during which we examined the ability of primary cultures of human proximal tubular cells to produce NO in response to inflammatory cytokines and the possible role of potential modulators such as the natriuretic peptides. Following challenge with the combination of inflammatory cytokines IL-1 beta, TNF-alpha, and IFN-gamma, such cultures exhibit a time-dependent increase in inducible NO synthetase induction and corresponding NO production, an effect which was inhibited by L-NMMA. In the second series of studies we demonstrated that increasing concentrations of atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) or C((4-23))ANF could stimulate a time- and concentration-dependent increase in nitric oxide production which was again abolished by L-NMMA. These results suggested that ANF acting at the natriuretic peptide receptor C could stimulate nitric oxide production in human proximal tubular cells. In the final series of studies we demonstrated that pro-inflammatory cytokine-induced nitric oxide production could be inhibited by ANF, brain naturetic peptide, C-type natriuretic peptide or C((4-23))ANF The actions of the natriuretic peptides and C((4-23))ANF was to return pro-inflammatory nitric oxide production to those observed when human proximal tubular cells were incubated with ANF alone indicating that this inhibition was mediated via the natriuretic peptide receptor C. The function of NO in the kidney is unclear but undoubtedly it has both beneficial and detrimental actions which in health remain in balance. However, when the kidney is subjected to an immune challenge, high cytotoxic levels of NO are produced locally and appear to be responsible for local damage, unfortunately fetal inhibition of NO production during such disease states does not always result in benefit. Clearly total abolition of an NO response removes important integral protective actions such as vasodilation. In the ideal situation, treatment of disease processes related to NO excess would involve the inhibition of these high local levels while still protecting vital dependent mechanisms. We believe that the NO natriuretic peptide interaction, which we have reported in this review, places ANF in a unique position of being able to maintain the essential or protective actions of NO while inhibiting potentially cytotoxic or detrimental effects. Copyright (C) 1999 S. Karger AG, Basel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)438-448
Number of pages11
JournalNephron Experimental Nephrology
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • nitric oxide
  • human proximal tubular cell
  • atrial natriuretic factor


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