In this study, we have identified the source of nitric oxide (NO) produced in the human inflammatory joints by analyzing expression of inducible NO synthase. In ex vivo organ cultures, both inflammatory synovium and cartilage from patients with rheumatoid arthritis produced NO. The NO production was suppressed by N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine, an inhibitor of NO synthase. The amount of NO produced by the synovium correlated with the proportion of CD14+ cells in the corresponding tissue (r = 0.8, P < 0.05). Immunohistochemical analysis as well as in situ hybridization showed that inducible NO synthase was predominantly expressed in synovial lining cells, endothelial cells, chondrocytes, and to a lesser extent, in infiltrating mononuclear cells and synovial fibroblasts. The synovial lining cells and the infiltrating cells expressing inducible NO synthase were identified where CD14+ cells were located. Together with morphological features, this suggests that they are type A synoviocytes. NO production from freshly isolated synoviocytes and chondrocytes was up-regulated by in vitro stimulation with a combination of IL-TNF-b, TNF-α, and LPS. In summary, the present results suggest that NO is produced primarily by CD14+ synoviocytes, chondrocytes, and endothelial cells in inflammatory joints of arthritides. NO production can be upregulated by cytokines present in inflamed joints. The increased NO production may thus contribute to the pathological features in inflammatory arthritides.
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