The production and function of nitric oxide during the early phase of blood-stage infection with Plasmodium chabaudi AS was analyzed using two inbred strains of mice that differ in the level of resistance to this parasite. Northern blot analysis of in vivo expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) revealed that early during infection resistant C57BL/6 mice, which clear the infection by 4 wk, have higher levels of iNOS mRNA in the spleen than susceptible A/J mice. In contrast, susceptible A/J mice have significantly increased levels of iNOS mRNA in the liver later in the course of infection just before death occurs. Splenic macrophages recovered from resistant C57BL/6 mice on day 7 postinfection express iNOS mRNA which is up-regulated following overnight stimulation of the cells with LPS. Furthermore, during the first week postinfection, splenic macrophages recovered from resistant hosts produce significantly higher levels of nitrite (NO2-) in vitro in response to LPS than similarly stimulated macrophages from susceptible A/J mice. Increased levels of nitrate (NO3-) were only detected in serum of resistant C57BL/6 mice at the time of peak parasitemia. Treatment with the iNOS inhibitor, aminoguanidine, reduced NO3- levels in serum of C57BL/6 mice and eliminated resistance of these hosts to P. chabaudi AS malaria without affecting parasitemia. These results demonstrate that the ability to produce high amounts of nitric oxide (NO) early during infection with blood-stage P. chabaudi AS correlates with resistance, but that NO may not be involved in parasite killing. Moreover, the tissue site of NO production, that is, spleen vs liver, appears to be critical and correlates with resistance vs susceptibility to P. chabaudi AS malaria, respectively.

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