Enteral arginase II provides ornithine for citrulline synthesis

Juan C. Marini, Bettina Keller, Inka Cajo Didelija, Leticia Castillo, Brendan Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The synthesis of citrulline from arginine in the small intestine depends on the provision of ornithine. To test the hypothesis that arginase II plays a central role in the supply of ornithine for citrulline synthesis, the contribution of dietary arginine, glutamine, and proline was determined by utilizing multitracer stable isotope protocols in arginase II knockout (AII -/-) and wild-type (WT) mice. The lack of arginase II resulted in a lower citrulline rate of appearance (121 vs. 137 μmol·kg -1·h-1) due to a reduced availability of ornithine; ornithine supplementation was able to restore the rate of citrulline production in AII-/- to levels comparable with WT mice. There were significant differences in the utilization of dietary citrulline precursors. The contribution of dietary arginine to the synthesis of citrulline was reduced from 45 to 10 μmol·kg-1·h-1 due to the lack of arginase II. No enteral utilization of arginine was observed in AII -/- mice (WT = 25 μmol·kg-1·h -1), and the contribution of dietary arginine through plasma ornithine was reduced in the transgenic mice (20 vs. 13 μmol·kg -1·h-1). Dietary glutamine and proline utilization were greater in AII-/- than in WT mice (20 vs. 13 and 1.4 vs. 3.7 μmol·kg-1·h-1, respectively). Most of the contribution of glutamine and proline was enteral rather than through plasma ornithine. The arginase isoform present in the small intestinal mucosa has the role of providing ornithine for citrulline synthesis. The lack of arginase II results in a greater contribution of plasma ornithine and dietary glutamine and proline to the synthesis of citrulline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E188-E194
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Arginine
  • Glutamine
  • Modeling
  • Proline
  • Urea cycle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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