An early response to an acute inflammatory insult, such as wound healing or experimental glomerulonephritis, is the conversion of arginine to the cytostatic molecule nitric oxide (NO). This 'anti-bacterial' phase is followed by the conversion of arginine to ornithine, which is the precursor for the pro-proliferative polyamines as well as proline for the production of extracellular matrix. This latter, pro-growth phase constitutes a 'repair' phase response. The temporal switch of arginine as a substrate for the cytostatic iNOS/NO axis to the pro-growth arginase/ ornithine/polyamine and proline axis is subject to regulation by inflammatory cytokines as well as interregulation by the arginine metabolites themselves. Arginine is also the precursor for another biogenic amine, agmatine. Here we describe the capacity of these three arginine pathways to interregulate, and propose a model whereby agmatine has the potential to serve in the coordination of the early and repair phase pathways of arginine in the inflammatory response by acting as a gating mechanism at the transition from the iNOS/NO axis to the arginase/ODC/polyamine axis. Due to the pathophysiologic and therapeutic potential, we will further examine the antiproliferative effects of agmatine on the polyamine pathway.
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