Role of reactive nitrogen species generated via inducible nitric oxide synthase in vesicant-induced lung injury, inflammation and altered lung functioning

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Pulmonary toxicity induced by sulfur mustard and related vesicants is associated with oxidative stress. In the present studies we analyzed the role of reactive nitrogen species (RNS) generated via inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in lung injury and inflammation induced by vesicants using 2-chloroethyl ethyl sulfide (CEES) as a model. C57Bl/6 (WT) and iNOS−/− mice were sacrificed 3 days or 14 days following intratracheal administration of CEES (6 mg/kg) or control. CEES intoxication resulted in transient (3 days) increases in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cell and protein content in WT, but not iNOS−/− mice. This correlated with expression of Ym1, a marker of oxidative stress in alveolar macrophages and epithelial cells. In contrast, in iNOS−/− mice, Ym1 was only observed 14 days post-exposure in enlarged alveolar macrophages, suggesting that they are alternatively activated. This is supported by findings that lung tumor necrosis factor and lipocalin Lcn2 expression, mediators involved in tissue repair were also upregulated at this time in iNOS−/− mice. Conversely, CEES-induced increases in the proinflammatory genes, monocyte chemotactic protein-1 and cyclooxygenase-2, were abrogated in iNOS−/− mice. In WT mice, CEES treatment also resulted in increases in total lung resistance and decreases in compliance in response to methacholine, effects blunted by loss of iNOS. These data demonstrate that RNS, generated via iNOS play a role in the pathogenic responses to CEES, augmenting oxidative stress and inflammation and suppressing tissue repair. Elucidating inflammatory mechanisms mediating vesicant-induced lung injury is key to the development of therapeutics to treat mustard poisoning.

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