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Effect of arginase II on L-arginine depletion and cell growth in murine cell lines of renal cell carcinoma

David J Tate1, Derek J Vonderhaar1, Yupanqui A Caldas2, Toye Metoyer3, John R Patterson1, Diego H Aviles4 and Arnold H Zea15*

Author Affiliations

1 Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center, LSUHSC, New Orleans, USA

2 Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension, UCDHSC, Denver, Colorado, USA

3 Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta GA, USA

4 Division of Pediatric Nephrology, Children's Hospital, New Orleans, LA, USA

5 Microbiology Immunology and Parasitology, LSUHSC, New Orleans, LA, USA

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Journal of Hematology & Oncology 2008, 1:14  doi:10.1186/1756-8722-1-14

Published: 25 September 2008



L-arginine is the common substrate for the two isoforms of arginase. Arginase I, highly expressed in the liver and arginase II mainly expressed in the kidney. Arginase I-producing myeloid derived suppressor cells have been shown to inhibit T-cell function by the depletion of L-arginine. On the other hand, arginase II has been detected in patients with cancer and is thought to metabolize L-arginine to L-ornithine needed to sustain rapid tumor growth; however its role in L-arginine depletion is unclear. Thus, in tumor biology, L-arginine metabolism may play a dual role in tumor growth and in the induction of T cell dysfunction. Therefore, we studied in murine renal cell carcinoma (RCC) cell lines, the effect of arginase II on tumor cell proliferation and L-arginine depletion. The effect of arginase inhibitors on cell proliferation was also tested.


Three murine renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) cell lines were tested for the presence of arginase. nor-NOHA, an arginase inhibitor was used to substantiate the effect of arginase on cell growth and L-arginine depletion. Amino acid levels were tested by HPLC.


Our results show that mRCC cell lines express only arginase II and were able to deplete L-arginine from the medium. Cell growth was independent of the amount of arginase activity expressed by the cells. nor-NOHA significantly (P = 0.01) reduced arginase II activity and suppressed cell growth in cells exhibiting high arginase activity.

The depletion of L-arginine by mRCC induced the decrease expression of CD3ζ a key element for T-cell function.


The results of this study show for the first time that arginase II produced by RCC cell lines depletes L-arginine resulting in decreased expression of CD3ζ. These results indicate that RCC cell lines expressing arginase II can modulate the L-arginine metabolic pathway to regulate both cell growth and T-cell function. Blocking arginase may lead to a decrease in RCC cell growth and aid in restoring immune function by increasing L-arginine availability for T-cell use. Understanding the interplay between arginase II and its interaction with the immune system may provide future therapeutic benefits to treat patients with RCC.