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      Evidence of autocrine modulation of macrophage nitric oxide synthase by alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone.

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
      Amino Acid Oxidoreductases, biosynthesis, metabolism, Animals, Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal, pharmacology, Arginine, analogs & derivatives, Base Sequence, Cell Line, DNA Primers, Gene Expression, drug effects, Humans, Interferon-gamma, Lipopolysaccharides, Macrophages, Mice, Models, Biological, Molecular Sequence Data, Nitric Oxide, antagonists & inhibitors, Nitric Oxide Synthase, Polymerase Chain Reaction, Pro-Opiomelanocortin, RNA, Messenger, analysis, Receptors, Corticotropin, Receptors, Melanocortin, Recombinant Proteins, Salmonella typhi, alpha-MSH, omega-N-Methylarginine

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          alpha-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH) is a potent inhibitory agent in all major forms of inflammation. To identify a potential mechanism of antiinflammatory action of alpha-MSH, we tested its effects on production of nitric oxide (NO), believed to be a mediator common to all forms of inflammation. We measured NO and alpha-MSH production in RAW 264.7 cultured murine macrophages stimulated with bacterial lipopolysaccharide and interferon gamma. alpha-MSH inhibited production of NO, as estimated from nitrite production and nitration of endogenous macrophage proteins. This occurred through inhibition of production of NO synthase II protein; steady-state NO synthase II mRNA abundance was also reduced. alpha-MSH increased cAMP accumulation in RAW cells, characteristic of alpha-MSH receptors in other cell types. RAW cells also expressed mRNA for the primary alpha-MSH receptor (melanocortin 1). mRNA for proopiomelanocortin, the precursor molecular of alpha-MSH, was expressed in RAW cells, and tumor necrosis factor alpha increased production and release of alpha-MSH. These results suggest that the proinflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha can induce macrophages to increase production of alpha-MSH, which then becomes available to act upon melanocortin receptors on the same cells. Such stimulation of melanocortin receptors could modulate inflammation by inhibiting the production of NO. The results suggest that alpha-MSH is an autocrine factor in macrophages which modulates inflammation by counteracting the effects of proinflammatory cytokines.

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