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Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2008 Aug;378(2):171-84. doi: 10.1007/s00210-008-0286-7. Epub 2008 Apr 24.

Arginase and pulmonary diseases.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Pharmacology, University Centre for Pharmacy, University of Groningen, Antonius Deusinglaan 1, 9713 AV, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Recent studies have indicated that arginase, which converts L-arginine into L-ornithine and urea, may play an important role in the pathogenesis of various pulmonary disorders. In asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis, increased arginase activity in the airways may contribute to obstruction and hyperresponsiveness of the airways by inducing a reduction in the production of bronchodilatory nitric oxide (NO) that results from its competition with constitutive (cNOS) and inducible (iNOS) NO synthases for their common substrate. In addition, reduced L-arginine availability to iNOS induced by arginase may result in the synthesis of both NO and the superoxide anion by this enzyme, thereby enhancing the production of peroxynitrite, which has procontractile and pro-inflammatory actions. Increased synthesis of L-ornithine by arginase may also contribute to airway remodelling in these diseases. L-Ornithine is a precursor of polyamines and L-proline, and these metabolic products may promote cell proliferation and collagen production, respectively. Increased arginase activity may also be involved in other fibrotic disorders of the lung, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Finally, through its action of inducing reduced levels of vasodilating NO, increased arginase activity has been associated with primary and secondary forms of pulmonary hypertension. Drugs targeting the arginase pathway could have therapeutic potential in these diseases.

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