Posts Tagged ‘phagosome’

Curator and Reporter: Aviral Vatsa PhD, MBBS

Based on: A review by Wink et al., 2011

This is the first part of a two part post

Nitric oxide (NO), reactive nitrogen species (RNS) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) perform dual roles as immunotoxins and immunomodulators. An incoming immune signal initiates NO and ROS production both for tackling the pathogens and modulating the downstream immune response via complex signaling pathways. The complexity of these interactions is a reflection of involvement of redox chemistry in biological setting (fig. 1)

Fig 1. Image credit: (Wink et al., 2011)

Previous studies have highlighted the role of NO in immunity. It was shown that macrophages released a substance that had antitumor and antipathogen activity and required arginine for its production (Hibbs et al., 1987, 1988). Hibbs and coworkers further strengthened the connection between immunity and NO by demonstrating that IL2 mediated immune activation increased NO levels in patients and promoted tumor eradication in mice (Hibbs et al., 1992; Yim et al., 1995).

In 1980s a number of authors showed the direct evidence that macrophages made nitrite, nitrates and nitrosamines. It was also shown that NO generated by macrophages could kill leukemia cells (Stuehr and Nathan, 1989). Collectively these studies along with others demonstrated the important role NO plays in immunity and lay the path for further research in understanding the role of redox molecules in immunity.

NO is produced by different forms of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) enzymes such as eNOS (endothelial), iNOS (inducible) and nNOS (neuronal). The constitutive forms of eNOS generally produce NO in short bursts and in calcium dependent manner. The inducible form produces NO for longer durations and is calcium independent. In immunity, iNOS plays a vital role. NO production by iNOS can occur over a wide range of concentrations from as little as nM to as much as µM. This wide range of NO concentrations provide iNOS with a unique flexibility to be functionally effective in various conditions and micro-environements and thus provide different temporal and concentration profiles of NO, that can be highly efficient in dealing with immune challenges.

Redox reactions in immune responses

NO/RNS and ROS are two categories of molecules that bring about immune regulation and ‘killing’ of pathogens. These molecules can perform independently or in combination with each other. NO reacts directly with transition metals in heme or cobalamine, with non-heme iron, or with reactive radicals (Wink and Mitchell, 1998). The last reactivity also imparts it a powerful antioxidant capability. NO can thus act directly as a powerful antioxidant and prevent injury initiated by ROS (Wink et al., 1999). On the other hand, NO does not react directly with thiols or other nucleophiles but requires activation with superoxide to generate RNS. The RNS species then cause nitrosative and oxidative stress (Wink and Mitchell, 1998).

The variety of functions achieved by NO can be understood if one looks at certain chemical concepts. NO and NO2 are lipophilic and thus can migrate through cells, thus widening potential target profiles. ONOO-, a RNS, reacts rapidly with CO2 that shortens its half life to <10 ms. The anionic form and short half life limits its mobility across membranes. When NO levels are higher than superoxide levels, the CO2-OONOintermediate is converted to NO2 and N2O3 and changes the redox profile from an oxidative to a nitrosative microenvironment. The interaction of NO and ROS determines the bioavailability of NO and proximity of RNS generation to superoxide source, thus defining a reaction profile. The ROS also consumes NO to generate NO2 and N2O3 as well as nitrite in certain locations. The combination of these reactions in different micro-environments provides a vast repertoire of reaction profiles for NO/RNS and ROS entities.

The Phagosome ‘cauldron’

The phagosome provides an ‘isolated’ environment for the cell to carry out foreign body ‘destruction’. ROS, NO and RNS interact to bring about redox reactions. The concentration of NO in a phagosome can depend on the kind of NOS in the vicinity and its activity and other localised cellular factors. NO and is metabolites such as nitrites and nitrates along with ROS combine forces to kill pathogens in the acidic environment of the phagosome as depicted in the figure 2 below.

Fig 2. The NO chemistry of the phagosome. (image credit: (Wink et al., 2011)

This diagram depicts the different nitrogen oxide and ROS chemistry that can occur within the phagosome to fight pathogens. The presence of NOX2 in the phagosomes serves two purposes: one is to focus the nitrite accumulation through scavenging mechanisms, and the second provides peroxide as a source of ROS or FA generation. The nitrite (NO2−) formed in the acidic environment provides nitrosative stress with NO/NO2/N2O3. The combined acidic nature and the ability to form multiple RNS and ROS within the acidic environment of the phagosome provide the immune response with multiple chemical options with which it can combat bacteria.


There are various ways in which NO combines forces with other molecules to bring about bacterial killing. Here are few examples

E.coli: It appears to be resistant to individual action of NO/RNS and H2O2 /ROS. However, when combined together, H2O2 plus NO mediate a dramatic, three-log increase in cytotoxicity, as opposed to 50% killing by NO alone or H2O2 alone. This indicates that these bacteria are highly susceptible to their synergistic action.

Staphylococcus: The combined presence of NO and peroxide in staphylococcal infections imparts protective effect. However, when these bacteria are first exposed to peroxide and then to NO there is increased toxicity. Hence a sequential exposure to superoxide/ROS and then NO is a potent tool in eradicating staphylococcal bacteria.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis: These bacterium are sensitive to NO and RNS, but in this case, NO2 is the toxic species. A phagosome microenvironment consisting of ROS combined with acidic nitrite generates NO2/N2O3/NO, which is essential for pathogen eradication by the alveolar macrophage. Overall, NO has a dual function; it participates directly in killing an organism, and/or it disarms a pathway used by that organism to elude other immune responses.


Many human parasites have demonstrated the initiation of the immune response via the induction of iNOS, that then leads to expulsion of the parasite. The parasites include Plasmodia(malaria), Leishmania(leishmaniasis), and Toxoplasma(toxoplasmosis). Severe cases of malaria have been related with increased production of NO. High levels of NO production are however protective in these cases as NO was shown to kill the parasites (Rockett et al., 1991; Gyan et al., 1994). Leishmania is an intracellualr parasite that resides in the mamalian macrophages. NO upregulation via iNOS induction is the primary pathway involved in containing its infestation. A critical aspect of NO metabolism is that NOHA inhibits AG activity, thereby limiting the growth of parasites and bacteria including Leishmania, Trypanosoma, Schistosoma, HelicobacterMycobacterium, and Salmonella, and is distinct from the effects of RNS. Toxoplasma gondii is also an intracellular parasite that elicits NO mediated response. INOS knockout mice have shown more severe inflammatory lesions in the CNS that their wild type counterparts, in response to toxoplasma exposure. This indicates the CNS preventative role of iNOS in toxoplasmosis (Silva et al., 2009).


Viral replication can be checked by increased production of NO by induction of iNOS (HIV-1, coxsackievirus, influenza A and B, rhino virus, CMV, vaccinia virus, ectromelia virus, human herpesvirus-1, and human parainfluenza virus type 3) (Xu et al., 2006). NO can reduce viral load, reduce latency and reduce viral replication. One of the main mechanisms as to how NO participates in viral eradication involves the nitrosation of critical cysteines within key proteins required for viral infection, transcription, and maturation stages. For example, viral proteases or even the host caspases that contain cysteines in their active site are involved in the maturation of the virus. The nitrosative stress environment produced by iNOS may serve to protect against some viruses by inhibiting viral infectivity, replication, and maturation.

To be continued in part 2 …


Gyan, B., Troye-Blomberg, M., Perlmann, P., Björkman, A., 1994. Human monocytes cultured with and without interferon-gamma inhibit Plasmodium falciparum parasite growth in vitro via secretion of reactive nitrogen intermediates. Parasite Immunol. 16, 371–3

Hibbs, J.B., Jr, Taintor, R.R., Vavrin, Z., 1987. Macrophage cytotoxicity: role for L-arginine deiminase and imino nitrogen oxidation to nitrite. Science 235, 473–476.

Hibbs, J.B., Jr, Taintor, R.R., Vavrin, Z., Rachlin, E.M., 1988. Nitric oxide: a cytotoxic activated macrophage effector molecule. Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 157, 87–94.

Hibbs, J.B., Jr, Westenfelder, C., Taintor, R., Vavrin, Z., Kablitz, C., Baranowski, R.L., Ward, J.H., Menlove, R.L., McMurry, M.P., Kushner, J.P., 1992. Evidence for cytokine-inducible nitric oxide synthesis from L-arginine in patients receiving interleu

Rockett, K.A., Awburn, M.M., Cowden, W.B., Clark, I.A., 1991. Killing of Plasmodium falciparum in vitro by nitric oxide derivatives. Infect Immun 59, 3280–3283.

Stuehr, D.J., Nathan, C.F., 1989. Nitric oxide. A macrophage product responsible for cytostasis and respiratory inhibition in tumor target cells. J. Exp. Med. 169, 1543–1555.

Wink, D.A., Hines, H.B., Cheng, R.Y.S., Switzer, C.H., Flores-Santana, W., Vitek, M.P., Ridnour, L.A., Colton, C.A., 2011. Nitric oxide and redox mechanisms in the immune response. J Leukoc Biol 89, 873–891.

Wink, D.A., Mitchell, J.B., 1998. Chemical biology of nitric oxide: Insights into regulatory, cytotoxic, and cytoprotective mechanisms of nitric oxide. Free Radic. Biol. Med. 25, 434–456.

Wink, D.A., Vodovotz, Y., Grisham, M.B., DeGraff, W., Cook, J.C., Pacelli, R., Krishna, M., Mitchell, J.B., 1999. Antioxidant effects of nitric oxide. Meth. Enzymol. 301, 413–424.

Xu, W., Zheng, S., Dweik, R.A., Erzurum, S.C., 2006. Role of epithelial nitric oxide in airway viral infection. Free Radic. Biol. Med. 41, 19–28.

Yim, C.Y., McGregor, J.R., Kwon, O.D., Bastian, N.R., Rees, M., Mori, M., Hibbs, J.B., Jr, Samlowski, W.E., 1995. Nitric oxide synthesis contributes to IL-2-induced antitumor responses against intraperitoneal Meth A tumor. J. Immunol. 155, 4382–4390.

Further reading on NO:

Nitric Oxide in bone metabolism July 16, 2012

Author: Aviral Vatsa PhD, MBBS

Nitric Oxide production in Systemic sclerosis July 25, 2012

Curator: Aviral Vatsa, PhD, MBBS

Nitric Oxide Signalling Pathways August 22, 2012 by

Curator/ Author: Aviral Vatsa, PhD, MBBS

Nitric Oxide: a short historic perspective August 5, 2012

Author/Curator: Aviral Vatsa PhD, MBBS

Nitric Oxide: Chemistry and function August 10, 2012

Curator/Author: Aviral Vatsa PhD, MBBS

Nitric Oxide and Platelet Aggregation August 16, 2012 by

Author: Dr. Venkat S. Karra, Ph.D.

The rationale and use of inhaled NO in Pulmonary Artery Hypertension and Right Sided Heart Failure August 20, 2012

Author: Larry Bernstein, MD

Nitric Oxide: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1998 Robert F. Furchgott, Louis J. Ignarro, Ferid Murad August 16, 2012

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Coronary Artery Disease – Medical Devices Solutions: From First-In-Man Stent Implantation, via Medical Ethical Dilemmas to Drug Eluting Stents August 13, 2012

Author: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Nano-particles as Synthetic Platelets to Stop Internal Bleeding Resulting from Trauma

August 22, 2012

Reported by: Dr. V. S. Karra, Ph.D.

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and the Role of agent alternatives in endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase (eNOS) Activation and Nitric Oxide Production July 19, 2012

Curator and Research Study Originator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Macrovascular Disease – Therapeutic Potential of cEPCs: Reduction Methods for CV Risk

July 2, 2012

An Investigation of the Potential of circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells (cEPCs) as a Therapeutic Target for Pharmacological Therapy Design for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction: A New Multimarker Biomarker Discovery

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Bone remodelling in a nutshell June 22, 2012

Author: Aviral Vatsa, Ph.D., MBBS

Targeted delivery of therapeutics to bone and connective tissues: current status and challenges- Part, September  

Author: Aviral Vatsa, PhD, September 23, 2012

Calcium dependent NOS induction by sex hormones: Estrogen

Curator: S. Saha, PhD, October 3, 2012

Nitric Oxide and Platelet Aggregation,

Author V. Karra, PhD, August 16, 2012

Bystolic’s generic Nebivolol – positive effect on circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells endogenous augmentation

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, July 16, 2012

Endothelin Receptors in Cardiovascular Diseases: The Role of eNOS Stimulation

Author: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, 10/4/2012

Inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB, Induction of NO production, stimulation of eNOS and Treatment Regime with PPAR-gamma agonists (TZD): cEPCs Endogenous Augmentation for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction – A Bibliography

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, 10/4/2012.

Nitric Oxide Nutritional remedies for hypertension and atherosclerosis. It’s 12 am: do you know where your electrons are?

Author and Reporter: Meg Baker, 10/7/2012.



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