Agmatine, a natural polyamine produced from arginine by arginine decarboxylase, was first discovered in 1910, but its physiological significance was disregarded for a century. The recent rediscovery of agmatine as an endogenous ligand for α2-adrenergic and imidazoline receptors in the mammalian brain suggests that this amine may be a promising therapeutic agent for treating a broad spectrum of central nervous system-associated diseases. In the past two decades, numerous preclinical and several clinical studies have demonstrated its pleiotropic modulatory functions on various molecular targets related to neurotransmission, nitric oxide synthesis, glucose metabolism, polyamine metabolism, and carnitine biosynthesis, indicating potential for therapeutic applications and use as a nutraceutical to improve quality of life. An enzymatic activity of arginine decarboxylase which produces agmatine from arginine was low in mammals, suggesting that a large portion of the agmatine is supplemented from diets and gut microbiota. In the present review, we focus on and concisely summarize the beneficial effects of agmatine for treating depression, anxiety, neuropathic pain, cognitive decline and learning impairment, dependence on drugs, and metabolic diseases (diabetes and obesity), since these fields have been intensively investigated. We also briefly discuss agmatine content in foodstuffs, and a simple approach for enhancing agmatine production using the filamentous fungus Aspergillus oryzae, widely used for the production of various Asian fermented foods.
Keywords: Agmatine; Aspergillus oryzae; Fermented foods; Polyamines; Quality of life.