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Tumor necrosis factor and related cytokines are thought to be implicated in cell-mediated immunity and pathophysiology in malaria, but their mechanism of action has not been ascertained. Tumor necrosis factor has been reported to generate nitric oxide in vitro, so we have measured levels of this molecule and its products in the plasma of mice after they have received an injection of tumor necrosis factor, lymphotoxin, interleukin-1, gamma interferon, or interleukin-6, all of which have been reported to be increased in malaria. Total reactive nitrogen intermediate levels in plasma were assayed spectrophotometrically after exposing plasma to a copper-cadmium-zinc catalyst to convert nitrate to nitrite and then to Griess reagent. Tumor necrosis factor, lymphotoxin, and interleukin-1 all induced reactive nitrogen intermediates in vivo, with interleukin-1 showing the most activity. Tumor necrosis factor was then examined more closely. It induced more reactive nitrogen intermediates in malaria-infected mice than in normal mice, and appreciably more was in the form of nitrate than was in the form of nitrite. NG-methyl-L-arginine inhibited the in vivo generation of reactive nitrogen intermediates by tumor necrosis factor in a dose-dependent manner, implying that these molecules were arginine derived. These results are consistent with the possibility that tumor necrosis factor, lymphotoxin, and interleukin-1 may contribute to host pathology and parasite suppression through generation of nitric oxide.

Original publication




Journal article


Infection and immunity

Publication Date





3725 - 3730


Division of Cell Biology, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Canberra, A.C.T., Australia.


Animals, Mice, Inbred CBA, Mice, Malaria, Nitrates, Nitrites, Nitric Oxide, Arginine, omega-N-Methylarginine, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Interleukin-1, Female, Male, Lymphotoxin-alpha