Arginine is found in all protein foods and is very abundant in seeds and nuts. It is considered a semi-essential amino acid during early development, infection/inflammation, or renal and/or intestinal impairment.
It has many functions in the body including:
- ammonia disposal in the urea cycle
- immune function
- stimulation of insulin release
- muscle metabolism (creatine/creatinine precursor)
- nitric oxide (NO) formation
- glutamic acid and proline formation
- glucose/glycogen conversion
- stimulation of the release of growth hormone, vasopressin, and prolactin
- wound healing Because arginine is a precursor for nitric oxide synthesis, it is often used therapeutically in cardiovascular disease for its vasodilatory effects.
- Morris SM, Jr. Arginine Metabolism Revisited. J Nutr. 2016;146(12):2579s-2586s.
- Patel JJ, Miller KR, Rosenthal C, Rosenthal MD. When Is It Appropriate to Use Arginine in Critical Illness? Nutr Clin Pract. 2016;31(4):438-444.
- Linden KC, Wadley GD, Garnham AP, McConell GK. Effect of l-arginine infusion on glucose disposal during exercise in humans. Med Sci Sports Exercise. 2011;43(9):1626-1634.
- Bronte V, Zanovello P. Regulation of immune responses by L-arginine metabolism. Nat Rev Immunol. 2005;5(8):641-654.
- Bologna K, Cesana-Nigro N, Refardt J, et al. Effect of Arginine on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Individuals With and Without Vasopressin Deficiency. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2020;105(7).
- Abe K, Matsuura N, Fujita H, et al. Prolactin response to arginine in children with hyperthyroidism and primary hypothyroidism. Eur J Ped. 1982;139(2):118-120.
- Boger RH. The pharmacodynamics of L-arginine. Alt Ther Health Med. 2014;20(3):48-54.
- Rouge C, Des Robert C, Robins A, et al. Manipulation of citrulline availability in humans. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2007;293(5):G1061-1067.
- Thibault R, Flet L, Vavasseur F, et al. Oral citrulline does not affect whole body protein metabolism in healthy human volunteers: results of a prospective, randomized, doubleblind, cross-over study. Clin Nutr. 2011;30(6):807-811.
- Vural H, Sirin B, Yilmaz N, Eren I, Delibas N. The role of arginine-nitric oxide pathway in patients with Alzheimer disease. Biol Trace Element Res. 2009;129(1-3):58-64.
- Sarban S, Isikan UE, Kocabey Y, Kocyigit A. Relationship between synovial fluid and plasma manganese, arginase, and nitric oxide in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Biol Trace Element Res. 2007;115(2):97-106.
- Kang-Yoon SA, Kirksey A. Relation of short-term pyridoxineHCl supplementation to plasma vitamin B-6 vitamers and amino acid concentrations in young women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;55(4):865-872.
- van Waardenburg DA, de Betue CT, Luiking YC, Engel M, Deutz NE. Plasma arginine and citrulline concentrations in critically ill children: strong relation with inflammation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(5):1438-1444.
- Romero MJ, Platt DH, Tawfik HE, et al. Diabetes-induced coronary vascular dysfunction involves increased arginase activity. Circ Res. 2008;102(1):95-102.
- Morris SM, Jr. Arginases and arginine deficiency syndromes. Current Op Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2012;15(1):64-70.
A low protein diet, gastrointestinal dysfunction, and increased amino acid utilization in acute phases of critical illness can all contribute to deficient arginine. However, some chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, are characterized by an increase in the enzyme arginase, which can subsequently result in plasma arginine deficiency. Clinically, arginine deficiency has been shown to contribute to increased susceptibility to infection, pulmonary hypertension, atherosclerosis, and impaired anti-tumor response.
A diet high in arginine, or exogenous supplementation with arginine or citrulline can elevate arginine levels. Levels might also be elevated in manganese (Mn) insufficiency since Mn is a necessary cofactor in the conversion of arginine to ornithine (and urea) in the urea cycle. Lastly, there is some literature to suggest that vitamin B6 supplementation alters plasma amino acids resulting in increased arginine.
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