Pro- and anti-apoptotic effects of nitric oxide in irradiated keratinocytes: The role of superoxide

R. Weller*, T. Billiar, Y. Vodovotz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ultraviolet radiation (UV) induces apoptosis in keratinocytes by both p53- and death receptor-dependent pathways. It also generates free radicals in keratinocytes, including the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO) by constitutive and inducible NO synthases (NOS). NO has both pro- and anti-apoptotic effects. We wished to determine which of these was predominant in keratinocytes. Human CCD1106 keratinocytes were irradiated with UVB in the presence and absence of several NOS antagonists. Apoptosis was measured by flow cytometry with annexin V binding. NOS antagonism consistently altered UVB-induced apoptosis measured 18 h after irradiation. In 9 of 13 experiments, NOS antagonism increased apoptosis. However, in 4 of 13 experiments, NOS antagonism reduced apoptosis. We postulated that the variable effects of NO might be due to a critical balance between UVB-induced NO and superoxide production. We predicted that NO would be anti-apoptotic in the presence of low O2-, but pro-apoptotic when NO combined with O2- to form peroxynitrite. Though superoxide dismutase reduced apoptosis after UVB, addition of peroxynitrite did not affect apoptosis. We conclude that NO released by UV irradiation is anti-apoptotic; however, the levels of O2- may be a determinant of NO action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-352
Number of pages5
JournalSkin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2002


  • Apoptosis
  • Keratinocyte
  • Nitric oxide
  • Peroxynitrite
  • Superoxide
  • Ultraviolet radiation


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