Frequent nitric oxide synthase-2 expression in human colon adenomas: Implication for tumor angiogenesis and colon cancer progression

Stefan Ambs, William G. Merriam, William P. Bennett, Emanuela Felley-Bosco, Mofolusara O. Ogunfusika, Sean M. Oser, Shawn Klein, Peter G. Shields, Timothy R. Billiar, Curtis C. Harris*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

456 Scopus citations


An increased expression of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) has been observed in human colon carcinoma cell lines as well as in human gynecological, breast, and central nervous system tumors. This observation suggests a pathobiological role of tumor-associated NO production. Hence, we investigated NOS expression in human colon cancer in respect to tumor staging, NOS-expressing cell type(s), nitrotyrozine formation, inflammation, and vascular endothelial growth factor expression. Ca2+-dependent NOS activity was found in normal colon and in tumors but was significantly decreased in adenomas (P < 0.001) and carcinomas (Dukes' stages A-D: P < 0.002). Ca2+-independent NOS activity, indicating inducible NOS (NOS2), is markedly expressed in approximately 60% of human colon adenomas (P < 0.001 versus normal tissues) and in 20-25% of colon carcinomas (P < 0.01 versus normal tissues). Only low levels were found in the surrounding normal tissue. NOS2 activity decreased with increasing tumor stage (Dukes' A-D) and was lowest in colon metastases to liver and lung. NOS2 was detected in tissue mononuclear cells (TMCs), endothelium, and tumor epithelium. There was a statistically significant correlation between NOS2 enzymatic activity and the level of NOS2 protein detected by immunohistochemistry (P < 0.01). Western blot analysis of tumor extracts with Ca2+-independent NOS activity showed up to three distinct NOS2 protein bands at M(r) 125,000-M(r) 138,000. The same protein bands were heavily tyrosine-phosphorylated in some tumor tissues. TMCs, but not the tumor epithelium, were immunopositive using a polyclonal anti-nitrotyrosine antibody. However, only a subset of the NOS2- expressing TMCs stained positively for 3-nitrotyrosine, which is a marker for peroxynitrite formation. Furthermore, vascular endothelial growth factor expression was detected in adenomas expressing NOS2. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that excessive NO production by NOS2 may contribute to the pathogenesis of colon cancer progression at the transition of colon adenoma to carcinoma in situ.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-341
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 15 Jan 1998
Externally publishedYes


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