Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease that leads to chronic inflammation. Macrophages, depending on their activation state, are either hosts or killers of the parasites. Downregulation of nitric oxide (NO) synthesis by the parasite infecting the macrophages has been proposed to be an important evading mechanism based on in vitro studies. We confirmed inhibition of NO release by macrophages infected with Leishmania amazonensis in vitro. To examine the role of the parasite in regulating NO production in vivo, we monitored systemic NO levels elicited by challenging naive and L. amazonensis-infected BALB/c mice with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Animals were challenged after 1, 2, 6, and 9 wk of infection. NO production was monitored by electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy as the levels of hemoglobin nitrosyl complexes (HbNO) present in the animal's blood. No significant differences in HbNO levels were observed between LPS-treated naive and inoculated mice at any time during infection. To control for increased macrophage numbers in infected mice, naive mice were injected with a macrophage cell line before LPS challenge; this treatment did not increase produced NO levels. The results argue against a major role for the parasite in downregulating NO production in vivo.
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