Renal arginine metabolism

J Nutr. 2004 Oct;134(10 Suppl):2791S-2795S; discussion 2796S-2797S. doi: 10.1093/jn/134.10.2791S.


The kidney plays a major role in arginine metabolism in 3 principal ways: arginine synthesis, creatine synthesis, and arginine reabsorption. Appreciable quantities of arginine are synthesized in the kidney from citrulline produced by the intestine. The renal enzymes of arginine synthesis, argininosuccinate synthetase and argininosuccinate lyase, occur in the cells of the proximal tubule. The rate of arginine synthesis depends on citrulline delivery and does not appear to be regulated by dietary arginine availability. Renal arginine synthesis in humans produces approximately 2 g arginine/d, which may be compared to an intake, from a Western diet, of approximately 4 to 5 g/d. Spontaneous, nonenzymatic breakdown of creatine and creatine phosphate to creatinine causes the excretion of 1 to 2 g creatinine/d and requires the replacement of an equivalent amount of creatine from the diet and by endogenous synthesis. The first enzyme of creatine biosynthesis, L-arginine:glycine amidinotransferase, occurs in the kidney and produces guanidinoacetate, which is released into the renal vein. The renal output of guanidinoacetate, however, is rather low, and we propose that the entire pathway of creatine synthesis may also occur in the liver. Renal arginine reabsorption salvages approximately 3 g arginine/d. At the apical membrane of proximal tubular cells, arginine shares a transporter with lysine, ornithine, and cystine. Defects in this heteromeric transporter cause cystinuria, which is also characterized by urinary loss of arginine, lysine, and ornithine. Arginine is transported out of the proximal tubular cells at the basolateral membrane by another heteromeric transporter, which also transports lysine and ornithine. Defects in this transporter cause lysinuric protein intolerance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Animals
  • Arginine / biosynthesis
  • Arginine / metabolism*
  • Citrulline / metabolism
  • Creatine / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism*


  • Citrulline
  • Arginine
  • Creatine