L-Arginine is a basic amino acid that has versatile metabolic roles, being involved in the generation of a wide range of biologically active intermediates such as nitric oxide (NO), polyamines, creatine and L-amino acids . Because the levels of L-arginine reflect a metabolic crossroads, the mechanisms of its synthesis and degradation in peripheral tissues are very well described. However, there is an increasing amount of data also implicating this amino acid as a mediator of central nervous system activities and those are not yet fully understood. Here we shall summarize the tissuespecific pathways controlling L-arginine intracellular and blood levels and also the emerging evidence pointing to a role of this metabolite in the central regulation of diverse physiological processes, as blood pressure control and inflammatory response. As a conclusion we shall discuss the advantages of targeting L-arginine metabolism over other NO donors, as a general strategy to correct NO deficiency related diseases and discuss a few new patents recently deposited which take into account the rational perspective outlined in the present review.
Keywords: L-Arginine, NO, vasodilation, polyamines, ASS, ASL, arginase, urea cycle, ADMA, proline-rich peptides, Lcitrulline, CNS, ROS
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