Ornithine and its role in metabolic diseases: An appraisal

Biomed Pharmacother. 2017 Feb:86:185-194. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2016.12.024. Epub 2016 Dec 12.


Ornithine is a non-essential amino acid produced as an intermediate molecule in urea cycle. It is a key substrate for the synthesis of proline, polyamines and citrulline. Ornithine also plays an important role in the regulation of several metabolic processes leading to diseases like hyperorithinemia, hyperammonemia, gyrate atrophy and cancer in humans. However, the mechanism of action behind the multi-faceted roles of ornithine is yet to be unraveled completely. Several types of cancers are also characterized by excessive polyamine synthesis from ornithine by different rate limiting enzymes. Hence, in this review we aim to provide extensive insights on potential roles of ornithine in many of the disease related cellular processes and also on the structural features of ornithine interacting proteins, enabling development of therapeutic modalities.

Keywords: Cancer; HHH syndrome; Ornithine; Ornithine aminotransferase; Ornithine decarboxylase; Ornithine transcarbomylase; Polyamines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism*
  • Ornithine / chemistry
  • Ornithine / physiology*
  • Polyamines / chemistry
  • Polyamines / metabolism
  • Proline / chemistry
  • Proline / metabolism
  • Protein Binding / physiology
  • Protein Structure, Secondary


  • Polyamines
  • Proline
  • Ornithine