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J Nutr. 2004 Oct;134(10 Suppl):2743S-2747S; discussion 2765S-2767S.

Enzymes of arginine metabolism.

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Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.


In mammals, L-arginine is classified as a semiessential or conditionally essential amino acid, depending on the developmental stage and health status of the individual. It can be derived from proline or glutamate, with the ultimate synthetic step catalyzed by argininosuccinate lyase. L-arginine is catabolized by arginases, nitric oxide synthases, arginine:glycine amidinotransferase, and possibly also by arginine decarboxylase, resulting ultimately in the production of urea, proline, glutamate, polyamines, nitric oxide, creatine, or agmatine. There is considerable diversity in tissue-specific and stimulus-dependent regulation of expression within this group of enzymes, and the expression of several of them can be regulated at transcriptional and translational levels by changes in the concentration of L-arginine itself. Consequently, the interplay among these enzymes in the regulation of specific aspects of arginine metabolism can be quite complex. For example, nitric oxide production can be affected by the interplay between nitric oxide synthases, arginases, and argininosuccinate synthetase. This metabolic complexity can pose challenges for analyses of arginine metabolism not only because L-arginine is a substrate for several different enzymes but also because ornithine and citrulline, key products of arginine metabolism, can each be produced by multiple enzymes. This overview highlights key features of the arginine metabolic enzymes and their interactions.

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