• Nitric oxide, a highly reactive radical, was recently identified as an intermediate of L-arginine metabolism in mammalian cells. We have shown that nitric oxide synthesis is induced in vitro in cultured hepatocytes by supernatants from activated Kupffer cells or in vivo by injecting rats with nonviable Corynebacterium parvum. In both cases, nitric oxide biosynthesis in hepatocytes was associated with suppression of total protein synthesis. This study attempts to determine the effect of nitric oxide biosynthesis on the activity of specific hepatocytic mitochondrial enzymes and to determine whether inhibition of protein synthesis is caused by suppression of energy metabolism. Exposure of hepatocytes to supernatants from activated Kupffer cells led to a 30% decrease of aconitase (Krebs cycle) and complex I (mitochondrial electron transport chain) activity. Using NG-monomethyl-L-arginine, an inhibitor of nitric oxide synthesis, we demonstrated that the Inhibition of mitochondrial aconitase activity was due, in part, to the action of nitric oxide. In contrast, in vivo nitric oxide synthesis of hepatocytes from Corynebacterium parvum–treated animals had no effect on mitochondrial respiration. This suggests that inhibition of protein synthesis by nitric oxide is not likely to be mediated by inhibition of energy metabolism.
(Arch Surg. 1991;126:186-191)