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Induction of nitric oxide synthase in colonic smooth muscle from patients with toxic megacolon.

Gastroenterology 1995 November
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Colonic inflammation may lead to motility disturbances, including severe atony. Nitric oxide is released by inflamed tissue and induces smooth muscle relaxation. The aim of this study was to analyze NO generation pathways in colonic tissue from patients who had ulcerative colitis with or without toxic megacolon and in tumor-free samples from patients with colonic neoplasm.

METHODS: Enzymatic activity was determined by transformation of [14C]arginine to [14C]citrulline in mucosa and muscular layer samples. Immunostaining of tissue sections with antibody against inducible NO synthase was investigated. The effects of endotoxin on NO synthase activity was tested in muscle strips from human colon.

RESULTS: Ca(2+)-independent NO synthase was undetectable or very low in muscularis propria from tumor and colitis controls. In contrast, specimens from patients with toxic megacolon had high activity (P < 0.05). Positive immunostaining for inducible NO synthase was found in muscular layers from patients with megacolon but not in tumor and colitis controls. Finally, endotoxin induced Ca(2+)-independent NO synthase activity in colonic muscle.

CONCLUSIONS: Toxic megacolon is associated with the appearance of inducible NO synthase in the colonic muscularis propria. Local generation of excessive amounts of NO may be responsible for the colonic dilatation that is the hallmark of this syndrome.

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