IFN-gamma regulates various aspects of rodent peritoneal mast cell function, including mediator release, cell growth, TNF-alpha-mediated cytotoxicity, and MHC class II expression. We investigated whether the suppressive action of IFN-gamma on IgE/Ag-mediated degranulation of mast cells is mediated via synthesis of nitric oxide. Incubation of mouse peritoneal cells with L-NMMA, an inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase, or in medium lacking the nitric oxide precursor L-arginine reversed the inhibitory effect of IFN-gamma on Ag-induced serotonin release. Furthermore, the nitric oxide donors sodium nitroprusside and S-nitrosoglutathione inhibited degranulation, and this effect was direct, since it was seen equally on purified and unfractionated mast cells and occurred independently of IFN-gammaR expression. Additional experiments revealed that accessory cells in peritoneal cell populations were the principal target for the action of IFN-gamma and the main source of nitric oxide; the cytokine was more potent on unfractionated compared with purified mast cells, and IFN-gamma induced detectable nitrite production in mixed peritoneal cells, but not in purified mast cells. These studies show that IFN-gamma induces nitric oxide production in peritoneal cell populations, and that synthesized nitric oxide directly inhibits the IgE-mediated secretory function of mast cells. The activation of nitric oxide-producing cells in the tissue microenvironment may be important in the control of mast cell-dependent allergic reactions.

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