Activation of constitutive nitric-oxide synthase activity is an early signaling event induced by ionizing radiation

J. Kevin Leach, Stephen M. Black, Rupert K. Schmidt-Ullrich, Ross B. Mikkelsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Ionizing radiation at clinical dose levels activates both pro- and anti-proliferative signal transduction pathways, the balance of which determines cell fate. The initiating and amplifying mechanisms involved in the activation are poorly understood. We demonstrate that one mechanism involves stimulation of constitutive nitric-oxide synthase (NOS) activity. NOS activity of Chinese hamster ovary cells was measured by the arginine → citrulline conversion assay. Irradiation stimulated a transient activation of NOS with maximal activity at 5 min of post-irradiation. Western blot analysis and genetic manipulation by overexpression of wild type or dominant negative NOS mutant identify the radiation-induced isoform as NOS-1. Further evidence that NOS-1 is activated by radiation was the demonstration of radiation-induced cGMP formation in cells transiently transfected with the NO-dependent soluble guanylate cyclase. Protein Tyr nitration, a footprint of peroxynitrite formation, followed radiation exposure and was inhibited by expression of a dominant negative NOS-1 mutant. Radiation-induced ERK1/2 kinase activity, a cytoprotective response to radiation, was also blocked by inhibiting NOS activity. These experiments establish NO-dependent signal transduction pathways as being radioresponsive. Given the lipophilic and relatively stable properties of NO, these results also suggest a possible mechanism by which ionization events in one cell may activate signaling processes in adjacent cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15400-15406
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 3 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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