Arginase: a critical regulator of nitric oxide synthesis and vascular function

Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2007 Sep;34(9):906-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1681.2007.04638.x.


1. Arginase is the focal enzyme of the urea cycle hydrolysing L-arginine to urea and L-ornithine. Emerging studies have identified arginase in the vasculature and have implicated this enzyme in the regulation of nitric oxide (NO) synthesis and the development of vascular disease. 2. Arginase inhibits the production of NO via several potential mechanisms, including competition with NO synthase (NOS) for the substrate L-arginine, uncoupling of NOS resulting in the generation of the NO scavenger, superoxide and peroxynitrite, repression of the translation and stability of inducible NOS protein, inhibition of inducible NOS activity via the generation of urea and by sensitization of NOS to its endogenous inhibitor asymmetric dimethyl-L-arginine. 3. Upregulation of arginase inhibits endothelial NOS-mediated NO synthesis and may contribute to endothelial dysfunction in hypertension, ageing, ischaemia-reperfusion and diabetes. 4. Arginase also redirects the metabolism of L-arginine to L-ornithine and the formation of polyamines and L-proline, which are essential for smooth muscle cell growth and collagen synthesis. Therefore, the induction of arginase may also promote aberrant vessel wall remodelling and neointima formation. 5. Arginase represents a promising novel therapeutic target that may reverse endothelial and smooth muscle cell dysfunction and prevent vascular disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginase / metabolism*
  • Arginine / analogs & derivatives
  • Arginine / metabolism*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / enzymology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / enzymology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / enzymology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Urea / metabolism


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Nitric Oxide
  • N,N-dimethylarginine
  • Urea
  • Collagen
  • Arginine
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Arginase