Macrophage-derived nitric oxide (NO) is cytostatic to tumor cells and microbial pathogens. We tested whether one molecular target for the cytostatic action of NO may be ribonucleotide reductase (RR), a rate-limiting enzyme in DNA synthesis. In a concentration-dependent manner, NO gas and lysates of activated macrophages that generated comparable amounts of NO led to the same degree of inhibition of partially purified RR from L1210 mouse lymphoma cells. Lysates from nonactivated macrophages, which do not produce NO, were noninhibitory. With lysates from activated macrophages, RR was protected by omitting L-arginine or by adding the NO synthase inhibitors diphenyleneiodonium, N omega-methyl-L-arginine, or N omega-amino-L-arginine. L-Arginine, but not D-arginine, abolished the protective effect of N omega-amino-L-arginine. The prototypic pharmacologic inhibitor of RR is hydroxyurea. Its structural resemblance to N omega-hydroxy-L-arginine, a reaction intermediate of NO synthase, prompted us to test if hydroxyurea can generate NO. In the presence of H2O2 and CuSO4, hydroxyurea produced NO2-/NO3-, aerobic reaction products of NO. Addition of morpholine blocked NO2-/NO3- generation from hydroxyurea and led to formation of nitrosomorpholine, as detected by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Thus, hydroxyurea can produce an NO-like, nitrosating rectant. L1210 cell DNA synthesis was inhibited completely by activated macrophages or by hydroxyurea, and was partially restored to the same degree in both settings by providing deoxyribonucleosides to bypass the block in RR. Thus, both NO gas and NO generated by activated macrophage lysates inhibit tumor cell RR. The RR inhibitor hydroxyurea can also generate an NO-like species. Similar, partial restoration of tumor cell DNA synthesis by deoxyribonucleosides in the presence of activated macrophages or hydroxyurea suggests that cytostasis by activated macrophages and by hydroxyurea has comparable mechanisms, including, but probably not limited to, inhibition of RR.

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