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Inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) is a key enzyme in the macrophage inflammatory response, which is the source of nitric oxide (NO) that is potently induced in response to proinflammatory stimuli. However, the specific role of NO production, as distinct from iNOS induction, in macrophage inflammatory responses remains unproven. We have generated a novel mouse model with conditional deletion of Gch1, encoding GTP cyclohydrolase 1 (GTPCH), an essential enzyme in the biosynthesis of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) that is a required cofactor for iNOS NO production. Mice with a floxed Gch1 allele (Gch1(fl/fl)) were crossed with Tie2cre transgenic mice, causing Gch1 deletion in leukocytes (Gch1(fl/fl)Tie2cre). Macrophages from Gch1(fl/fl)Tie2cre mice lacked GTPCH protein and de novo biopterin biosynthesis. When activated with LPS and IFNγ, macrophages from Gch1(fl/fl)Tie2cre mice induced iNOS protein in a manner indistinguishable from wild-type controls, but produced no detectable NO, as judged by L-citrulline production, EPR spin trapping of NO, and by nitrite accumulation. Incubation of Gch1(fl/fl)Tie2cre macrophages with dihydroethidium revealed significantly increased production of superoxide in the presence of iNOS expression, and an iNOS-independent, BH4-dependent increase in other ROS species. Normal BH4 levels, nitric oxide production, and cellular redox state were restored by sepiapterin, a precursor of BH4 production by the salvage pathway, demonstrating that the effects of BH4 deficiency were reversible. Gch1(fl/fl)Tie2cre macrophages showed only minor alterations in cytokine production and normal cell migration, and minimal changes in basal gene expression. However, gene expression analysis after iNOS induction identified 78 genes that were altered between wild-type and Gch1(fl/fl)Tie2cre macrophages. Pathway analysis identified decreased NRF2 activation, with reduced induction of archetypal NRF2 genes (gclm, prdx1, gsta3, nqo1, and catalase) in BH4-deficient Gch1(fl/fl)Tie2cre macrophages. These findings identify BH4-dependent iNOS regulation and NO generation as specific requirements for NRF2-dependent responses in macrophage inflammatory activation.

Original publication




Journal article


Free Radic Biol Med

Publication Date





206 - 216


As3MT, BH4, GCH1, GTPCH, Macrophage, NOS2, Nitric oxide, Tetrahydrobiopterin, iNOS, Animals, Biopterin, GTP Cyclohydrolase, Macrophages, Mice, NF-E2-Related Factor 2, Nitric Oxide, Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II, Oxidation-Reduction