Arginine-to-GAA utilization in the kidney
The kidney plays a key role in arginine metabolism. Arginine production is controlled by argininosuccinate synthetase (ASS) and argininosuccinate lyase (ASL) which metabolize citrulline and aspartate to arginine and fumarate whereas arginine consumption is dependent on arginine:glycine amidinotransferase (GAT), which mediates creatine and ornithine synthesis. Histological and biochemical techniques have been used to study the distribution and activity of these enzymes in anatomically dissected segments, in isolated fragments of tubules and in whole tissues. ASS and ASL mRNAs and proteins are expressed in the proximal tubule. Within this nephron segment, the proximal convoluted tubule has a higher arginine synthesis capacity than the proximal straight tubules. Furthermore, this arginine-synthesizing portion of the nephron matches perfectly with the site of citrulline reabsorption from the glomerular filtrate. The kidney itself can produce citrulline from methylated arginine, but this capacity is limited. Therefore, intestinal citrulline synthesis is required for renal arginine production. Although the proximal convoluted tubule also expresses a significant amount of GAT, only 10% of renal arginine synthesis is metabolized to guanidinoacetic acid, possibly because GAT has a mitochondrial localization. Kidney arginase (AII) is expressed in the cortical and outer medullary proximal straight tubules and does not degrade significant amounts of newly synthesized arginine. The data presented in this review identify the proximal convoluted tubule as the main site of endogenous arginine biosynthesis.