What is Arginine

Arginine (abbreviated as Arg or R) is an α-amino acid. The L-form is one of the 20 most common natural amino acids. Its codons are CGU, CGC, CGA, CGG, AGA, and AGG. In mammals, arginine is classified as a semiessential or conditionally essential amino acid, depending on the developmental stage and health status of the individual. Infants are unable to meet their requirements and thus arginine is nutritionally essential for infants. Arginine was first isolated from a lupin seedling extract in 1886 by the Swiss chemist Ernst Schultze.


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Arginine consists of a 4-carbon aliphatic straight chain, the distal end of which is capped by a complex guanidinium group. With a pKa of 12.48, the guanidinium group is positively charged in neutral, acidic and even most basic environments, and thus imparts basic chemical properties to arginine. Because of the conjugation between the double bond and the nitrogen lone pairs, the positive charge is de-localized, enabling the formation of multiple H-bonds.



Function
Arginine plays an important role in cell division, the healing of wounds, removing ammonia from the body, immune function, and the release of hormones. Arginine, taken in combination with proanthocyanidins or yohimbine, has also been used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.

The benefits and functions attributed to oral ingestion of L-arginine include:

  • Precursor for the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO)
  • Stimulation of the release of growth hormone.
  • Improves immune function
  • Reduces healing time of injuries (particularly bone)
  • Quickens repair time of damaged tissue
  • Reduces risk of heart disease
  • Increases muscle mass
  • Reduces adipose tissue body fat
  • Helps improve insulin sensitivity
  • Helps decrease blood pressure
  • Alleviates male infertility, improving sperm production and motility
  • Increases circulation throughout the body, including the sex organs

In proteins

The geometry, charge distribution and ability to form multiple H-bonds make arginine ideal for binding negatively charged groups. For this reason arginine prefers to be on the outside of the proteins where it can interact with the polar environment. Incorporated in proteins, arginine can also be converted to citrulline by PAD enzymes. In addition, arginine can be methylated by protein methyltransferases.


As a precursor

Arginine is the immediate precursor of NO, urea, ornithine and agmatine; is necessary for the synthesis of creatine; and can also be used for the synthesis of polyamines (mainly through ornithine and to a lesser degree through agmatine), citrulline, and glutamate. For being a precursor of NO, (relaxes blood vessels), arginine is used in many conditions where vasodilation is required. The presence of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), a close relative, inhibits the nitric oxide reaction; therefore, ADMA is considered a marker for vascular disease, just as L-arginine is considered a sign of a healthy endothelium.

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