Arginine deprivation and tumour cell death: arginase and its inhibition

Denis Wheatley, R. Philip, E. Campbell

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    26 Citations (Scopus)


    Arginase treatment of cell cultures reduced arginine in the medium to similar to micromolar levels within 5-30 min, and proved as effective as arginine-free medium (AFM) prepared by formulation. The enzyme was heat stable and as active at pH 7.2 as at pH 9.9. It persisted in culture for at least 3 days with only a small diminution in its speed of action, and still actively destroyed arginine after 6 days, since arginine supplementation failed to rescue viable cells.

    Addition of L-norvaline, an inhibitor of arginase, rescued cells from arginase-induced deprivation. Its efficacy at low concentrations was short-lived (probably < 1 day), while at higher concentrations it did not appear to inhibit completely the enzyme. However, L-norvaline at these same levels also slowed the growth of positive non-enzyme treated controls receiving the normal arginine level. Thus the difference in this growth indicated that arginase was more inhibitory than cursory examination of initial kinetic data suggested. It also agreed with the inhibition of arginase in the ornithine assay used to measure biochemically enzyme activity. We conclude that norvaline partially but not completely antagonises arginase activity, which allows cell rescue in a dose-dependent manner between 0.4 and 4 mM, but cannot be used above about 2 mM without exhibiting a general non-specific interference of cell growth of its own, although no evidence of cell toxicity was observed in either AFM or arginine-containing medium. L-ornithine, the product of arginase that inhibits the enzyme by a feedback mechanism, had no inhibitory effect on arginase over a similar concentration range.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)177-185
    Number of pages8
    JournalMolecular & Cellular Biochemistry
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


    • cancer
    • arginine
    • arginase
    • norvaline
    • ornithine
    • deprivation
    • catabolism
    • cell proliferation
    • cell death
    • GROWTH


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