Counterprotective effect of erythrocytes in experimental bacterial peritonitis is due to scavenging of nitric oxide and reactive oxygen intermediates

Young Myeong Kim*, Sun Joo Hong, Timothy R. Billiar, Richard L. Simmons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Erythrocytes (RBC) in the peritoneal cavity significantly increase the lethality of bacterial peritonitis. The lethality is known to be associated with, and perhaps due to, increased bacterial counts in the peritoneal cavity. The mechanism is unknown. In this study, we investigated the hypothesis that RBC scavenge reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI) and nitric oxide (NO), so that the counterprotective effect is due to a loss of the microbiostatic activity of both ROI and NO. To study this effect, rats were subjected to a peritoneal inoculation of live Escherichia coli without RBC (nonlethal dose) or with RBC (lethal dose). The adjuvant effect of RBC was not modified by N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine (NMA, an NO synthase inhibitor), superoxide dismutase, catalase, mannitol, or a combination of these agents. Furthermore, the increased number of bacteria in the peritoneal cavity in the presence of RBC was unaffected by these treatments. The administration of NMA with bacteria alone (no RBC) converted a nonlethal model into a lethal one associated with higher intraperitoneal bacterial counts. A similar effect was seen with superoxide dismutase and catalase but not with mannitol. During bacterial peritonitis in the absence of RBC, superoxide and NO formation (determined by the total nitrite plus nitrate formed) was detected in the ascites and inducible NO synthase mRNA expression was present in the peritoneal cells. In the absence of RBC, superoxide was detected and oxidation of dihydrorhodamine to rhodamine was observed, indicating that peroxynitrite was produced. Both were blocked by the inclusion of RBC. Preinjection with a low inoculum of killed bacteria protected the rats from a subsequent lethal peritoneal bacterial challenge; this effect was reversed by scavenging ROI and NO. The protective effect of killed bacterial pretreatment was lost when RBC were placed in the peritoneal cavity. In vitro bactericidal activity of NO- and ROI-generating macrophages was also inhibited by RBC or by inhibiting ROI and NO formation. Taken together, these data are consistent with the hypothesis that RBC can impair bacterial clearance by removing both NO and ROI, suggesting that NO in combination with superoxide may be important to the antimicrobial defenses of the peritoneal cavity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3074-3080
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


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