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Murine bone marrow-derived macrophages are able to inhibit the growth of Mycobacterium bovis after stimulation with recombinant gamma interferon. This antimycobacterial activity was inhibited by NG-monomethyl-L-arginine, a specific inhibitor of nitrite and nitrate synthesis from L-arginine. Furthermore, there was a complete lack of mycobacterial growth inhibition in a medium deficient in L-arginine. Nitrite is generated by gamma interferon-activated bone marrow-derived macrophages after infection with M. bovis, and a correlation between mycobacterial growth inhibition and nitrite production was observed. These results indicate that reactive nitrogen intermediates derived from L-arginine are crucially involved in macrophage antimycobacterial activity.