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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Arginine metabolism and nutrition in growth, health and disease

item Wu, Guoyao
item Bazer, Fuller
item Davis, Teresa
item Kim, Sung Woo
item Li, Peng
item Rhoads, Marc
item Satterfield, M. Carey
item Smith, Stephen
item Spencer, Thomas
item Yin, Yulong

Submitted to: Amino Acids
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/5/2008
Publication Date: 11/23/2008
Publication URL:
Citation: Wu, G., Bazer, F.W., Davis, T.A., Kim S.W., Li, P., Rhoads, J.M., Satterfield, M.C., Smith, S.B., Spencer, T.E., Yin, Y. 2009. Arginine metabolism and nutrition in growth, health and disease. Amino Acids. 37(1):153-168.

Interpretive Summary: Arginine is an amino acid that is synthesized by the body, although not in sufficient quantities during different stages of development and in some disease states. Thus, arginine nutrition is a significant concern in human and animal health. Arginine is the substrate for the synthesis of nitric oxide, polyamines, proline, glutamate, creatine, and agmatine synthesis, all of which have great biological importance. Arginine is also critical for the removal of the toxin ammonia from the body, the regulation of energy metabolism, and the growth of the fetus and infant. Recent studies have shown that supplementation with arginine or its metabolite, citrulline, can improve cardiovascular, reproductive, liver, kidney, and immune function. Supplementation with arginine or citrulline also improves insulin sensitivity, and therefore may provide an important therapeutic strategy for the treatment for diabetes and obesity.

Technical Abstract: L-Arginine (Arg) is synthesised from glutamine, glutamate, and proline via the intestinal-renal axis in humans and most other mammals (including pigs, sheep, and rats). Arg degradation occurs via multiple pathways that are initiated by arginase, nitric-oxide synthase, Arg:glycine amidinotransferase, and Arg decarboxylase. These pathways produce nitric oxide, polyamines, proline, glutamate, creatine, and agmatine, with each having enormous biological importance. Arg is also required for the detoxification of ammonia, which is an extremely toxic substance for the central nervous system. There is compelling evidence that Arg regulates interorgan metabolism of energy substrates and the function of multiple organs. The results of both experimental and clinical studies indicate that Arg is a nutritionally essential amino acid (AA) for spermatogenesis, embryonic survival, fetal and neonatal growth, as well as maintenance of vascular tone and hemodynamics. Moreover, a growing body of evidence clearly indicates that dietary supplementation or intravenous administration of Arg is beneficial in improving reproductive, cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal, gastrointestinal, liver and immune functions, as well as facilitating wound healing, enhancing insulin sensitivity, and maintaining tissue integrity. Additionally, Arg or L-citrulline may provide novel and effective therapies for obesity, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome. The effect of Arg in treating many developmental and health problems is unique among AAs, and offers great promise for improved health and well-being of humans and animals.

Last Modified: 06/23/2017
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