Peritoneal macrophages from mice infected with an extracellular parasite, Trypanosoma musculi were effective in inhibiting parasite proliferation in vitro. This trypanostatic activity could be suppressed by NG monomethyl-L-arginine (NGMMA), a specific inhibitor of a biochemical pathway synthesizing L-citrulline and inorganic nitrogen oxides from L-arginine. Macrophages exerted this in vitro antiproliferative effect from the 10th day of infection on and this activity was maximum around 14th day of infection. Nitrite production paralleled development of macrophage trypanostatic activity. Macrophages collected from BCG-infected mice or treated with IFN-gamma in vitro also exerted a trypanostatic activity which was suppressed by NGMMA. A trypanostatic activity suppressed by NGMMA was also exerted by splenic macrophages from T. musculi-infected mice. Trypanostatic activity of IFN-gamma-treated macrophages was reduced by addition of anti-TNF-alpha showing the participation of TNF-alpha in IFN-gamma-mediated macrophage trypanostatic activity. Nitric oxide (NO) gas inhibited T. musculi proliferation. Addition of excess iron reversed the trypanostatic effect of both macrophages and NO gas. All these data showed that, as reported for a broad spectrum of microorganisms, activated macrophages displayed an antimicrobial effect on trypanosomes through the L-arginine: NO pathway that could participate in controlling infection in T. musculi-infected mice before appearance of antibody-dependent mechanisms. NO production by activated macrophages could trigger iron loss from critical target enzymes in trypanosomes.

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