L-Arginine (L-Arg) availability is crucial in the regulation of immune response. Indeed, L-Arg deficiency induces T-cell dysfunction and could modulate the properties of natural killer (NK) cells involved in the early host defense against infections and tumors. We explored the impact of L-Arg depletion on NK cell functions using two models - an NK-92 cell line and isolated human blood NK cells. Below 5mg/L of L-Arg, NK-92 cell proliferation was decreased and a total L-Arg depletion reduced NK-92 cell viability. NK cell cytotoxicity was significantly inhibited in presence of low L-Arg concentration (2.5 mg/L). L-Arg depletion reduced the expression of NK-92 activating receptors, NKp46 and NKp30, the expression of NK ζ chain and the NK-92 intracellular production of IFN-γ. Whatever the L-Arg concentrations tested, no significant variation in the gene expression of transporters and enzymes involved in L-Arg metabolism was found. Thus, L-Arg availability modulates the phenotypic and functional properties of NK cells.
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