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Interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) is shown to stimulate melanoma development and progression. However, the underlying mechanism has not been completely defined. Our study aimed to determine the role of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS)-mediated signaling in IFN-γ-stimulated melanoma progression and the anti-melanoma effects of novel nNOS inhibitors. Our study shows that IFN-γ markedly induced the expression levels of nNOS in melanoma cells associated with increased intracellular nitric oxide (NO) levels. Co-treatment with novel nNOS inhibitors effectively alleviated IFN-γ-activated STAT1/3. Further, reverse phase protein array (RPPA) analysis demonstrated that IFN-γ induced the expression of HIF1α, c-Myc, and programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1), in contrast to IFN-α. Blocking the nNOS-mediated signaling pathway using nNOS-selective inhibitors was shown to effectively diminish IFN-γ-induced PD-L1 expression in melanoma cells. Using a human melanoma xenograft mouse model, the in vivo studies revealed that IFN-γ increased tumor growth compared to control, which was inhibited by the co-administration of nNOS inhibitor MAC-3-190. Another nNOS inhibitor, HH044, was shown to effectively inhibit in vivo tumor growth and was associated with reduced PD-L1 expression levels in melanoma xenografts. Our study demonstrates the important role of nNOS-mediated NO signaling in IFN-γ-stimulated melanoma progression. Targeting nNOS using highly selective small molecular inhibitors is a unique and effective strategy to improve melanoma treatment.


This article was originally published in Scientific Reports, volume 12, in 2022.


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