L-arginine deprivation impairs Leishmania major-specific T-cell responses

Eur J Immunol. 2009 Aug;39(8):2161-72. doi: 10.1002/eji.200839041.


The amino acid L-arginine plays a crucial role in the regulation of immune responses. We have recently shown that uncontrolled replication of Leishmania parasites at the site of pathology correlates with high levels of arginase activity in nonhealing leishmaniasis and that this elevated arginase activity causes local depletion of L-arginine. To further our understanding of the impact of L-arginine deprivation in experimental leishmaniasis, here we characterize in detail the effects of L-arginine deprivation on antigen-specific T cells and MPhi. The results of our study show that decrease of L-arginine levels in the extracellular milieu affects the biological activities of Leishmania major-specific T cells, both at the level of the magnitude and the quality of their responses. L. major-specific CD4(+) T cells rendered hyporesponsive by L-arginine deprivation can be partially rescued by addition of exogenous L-arginine to produce IL-4 and IL-10, but not to produce IFN-gamma. Furthermore, our results show that L-arginine deprivation also greatly impacts parasite growth in activated macrophages. In summary, our results suggest that L-arginine levels affect both Th cell responses and parasite replication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginase / metabolism
  • Arginine / metabolism*
  • Arginine / pharmacology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / parasitology
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-10 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-4 / metabolism
  • Leishmania major / physiology*
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / immunology*
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / metabolism
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / parasitology
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / parasitology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred CBA
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes / parasitology


  • Interleukin-10
  • Interleukin-4
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Arginine
  • Arginase