In a previous study we demonstrated thirteen amino acids to be essential and two to be partially essential for lymphocyte proliferation. Arginine is one of the essential amino acids, and the highly purified arginase strongly inhibited lymphocyte proliferation. The modulation of lymphocyte growth by various amino acid-degrading enzymes was studied. Peripheral lymphocytes were cultured in RPMI 1640 with or without amino acid-degrading enzyme for 72 h. A total of 17 commercial L-amino acid-degrading enzymes were studied. At 10 micrograms/ml, both lysine decarboxylase and asparaginase completely inhibited lymphocyte proliferation, arginase resulted in 78% inhibition and tyrosinase 57% inhibition. Other enzymes inhibited less than 20% lymphocyte proliferation; they included alanine dehydrogenase, arginine decarboxylase, aspartase, glutamic decarboxylase, glutamic dehydrogenase, glutaminase, histidase, histidine decarboxylase, leucine dehydrogenase, phenylalanine decarboxylase, phenylalanine hydroxylase, tryptophanase, and tyrosine decarboxylase. All four enzymes that strongly inhibited lymphocyte proliferation degraded amino acids that are essential for lymphocyte growth.