Intrahepatic expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase in acute liver allograft rejection: Evidence of modulation by corticosteroids



Nitric oxide (NO) has been proposed to have an important role in the immune response. Plasma nitrate levels increase during acute rejection and decrease after treatment with corticosteroids, but little is known about its potential cellular source. We studied inducible NO synthase (iNOS) expression in liver biopsy specimens of 12 patients with acute rejection compared with biopsy specimens from the same patients after treatment with high doses of intravenous corticosteroids. We also compared iNOS expression during acute rejection with a control group (9 patients without histological rejection). iNOS expression was assessed by immunohistochemistry. Intrahepatic iNOS expression was only observed in the cytoplasm of hepatocytes, which were diffusely distributed throughout hepatic lobules. iNOS expression could not be shown in portal tracts, inflammatory cells, or endothelial and sinusoidal lining cells. In patients with acute rejection, iNOS expression was significantly stronger than in the control group (2 ± 0.7 v 0.6 ± 0.7; P < .05). After treatment with corticosteroids, iNOS expression decreased significantly (2 ± 0.7 v 1.3 ± 0.9; P < .05). In conclusion, the findings of the present study show that during acute liver rejection, hepatocytes are the main cellular source for NO production and treatment with corticosteroids induces significant downregulation of intrahepatic iNOS expression.