All trans retinoic acid and vitamin D3 derivatives are well known for their antileukemic activity, while the precise mechanism of this effect remains to be clarified. Using human leukemic U937 and THP-1 promonocytic cell lines, we analyzed the effect of all-trans retinoic acid (RA) and/or 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (VD) on the generation of nitric oxide (NO), a potent antitumoral mediator. U937 cell differentiation with VD or with both RA and VD (RA/VD) correlated with gene transcription and functional expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). Nitrites and L-citrulline were also detected in U937 cell supernatants as soon as 24 hours following cell incubation with VD or RA/VD, but not in cells treated with RA alone. Inhibition of iNOS activity by NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (LNMMA) significantly decreased in vitro U937 cell differentiation with VD and RA/VD as shown by the expression of cell differentiation markers (CD14 and CD68) and by the capacity of these cells to undergo a luminol-dependent chemiluminescence in response to opsonized zymosan. Similar results were obtained using the THP-1 cell line strengthening the role of NO in the VD- and RA/VD-induced growth arrest and terminal differentiation of promonocytic leukemia cells.

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