MRL-lpr/lpr mice spontaneously develop various manifestations of autoimmunity including an inflammatory arthropathy and immune complex glomerulonephritis. This study examines the role of nitric oxide, a molecule with proinflammatory actions, in the pathogenesis of MRL-lpr/lpr autoimmune disease. MRL-lpr/lpr mice excreted more urinary nitrite/nitrate (an in vivo marker of nitric oxide production) than did mice of normal strains and MRL-(+/+) and B6-lpr/lpr congenic strains. In addition, MRL-lpr/lpr peritoneal macrophages had an enhanced capacity to produce nitric oxide in vitro as well as increased nitric oxide synthase activity, and certain tissues from MRL-lpr/lpr mice had increased expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (NOS) mRNA and increased amounts of material immunoreactive for inducible NOS. Oral administration of NG-monomethyl-L-arginine, a nitric oxide synthase inhibitor, prevented the development of glomerulonephritis and reduced the intensity of inflammatory arthritis in MRL-lpr/lpr mice. By using interspecific backcross mice, the gene for inducible NOS (Nosi) was mapped to mouse chromosome 11. This chromosomal localization was different from those loci that we have previously demonstrated to be linked to enhanced susceptibility to renal disease in an MRL-lpr/lpr cross. However, the chromosomal location of the NOS gene was consistent with an insulin-dependent diabetes locus identified in an analysis of nonobese diabetic (NOD) mice. These results suggest that elevated nitric oxide production could be important in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity, and that treatments to block the production of nitric oxide or block its effects might be valuable therapeutically.

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