Both CD8+ T cells and IFN-gamma (IFN-gamma) are important components in the regulation of inducible-nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) which contribute to liver stage anti-malarial activity in rodents immunized with irradiated sporozoites. IFN-gamma, provided by malaria-specific CD8+ T cells, stimulates liver cells to produce nitric oxide (NO) for the destruction of infected hepatocytes or the parasite within these cells. To identify the cell source of iNOS in livers from Brown Norway rats challenged with Plasmodium berghei sporozoites, we probed tissue sections with antisera that recognize iNOS and the malarial exoerythrocytic stage parasite. Immunofluorescence analysis of parasitized livers demonstrate that 1) iNOS was found in infected hepatocytes, not Kupffer or endothelial cells; and 2) a higher proportion of infected hepatocytes express iNOS in immunized rats compared with naive animals after challenge. There was no immunoreactivity to the iNOS antisera in liver sections of immunized rats 15 h after sporozoite challenge, however, iNOS activity was present in 18% of the infected hepatocytes by 24 h and reached 81% by 31 h. In contrast, < 10% of the infected hepatocytes displayed iNOS activity in naive or immune animals 48 h after challenge. We also found a significant decrease in the ability of the immunized animals to express iNOS in response to sporozoite challenge by accelerating the removal of pre-existing irradiated-attenuated parasites from hepatocytes with the antimalarial drug, primaquine. Therefore, induction and maintenance of iNOS activity were dependent on intrahepatic persistence of the irradiated-attenuated parasite. These results suggest that liver-iNOS expression following sporozoite challenge is restricted to the infected hepatocyte and dependent on the presence of the irradiated-attenuated parasite in immune animals.

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