1.The intermediates of biochemical cycles are commonly utilized for biosynthetic processes; thus at least one intermediate must be replenished de novo to provide constant flux through the cycle. The utilization of l-arginine for NO synthesis in macrophages may thus reduce the concentration of intermediates of the urea cycle. It is possible that a glutamine-utilizing pathway exists in mononuclear phagocytes that may connect with the urea cycle.

2.In this paper we report that mouse peritoneal resident and Bacillus Calmette–Guerin (BCG)-activated macrophages and human monocytes are capable of utilizing glutamine at high rates, contain sufficient activity of the enzymes required to convert glutamine to citrulline (and subsequently citrulline to arginine) to account for observed rates of nitrite synthesis in the absence of extracellular l-arginine, and will release nitrite when exposed to intermediates of the proposed glutamine → arginine pathway.

3.The rate of nitrite production (in the absence of extracellular arginine) was reduced by culturing macrophages or monocytes in the presence of the glutaminase inhibitor 6-diazo 5-oxo norleucine.

4.The rate and extent of arginase secretion, glutamine utilization, nitrite production (basal and lipopolysaccharide-stimulated) and phosphate-dependent glutaminase activity from BCG-activated macrophages was increased compared with resident cells.

5.We suggest that the elevated arginase secretion rates in activated macrophages would effectively increase the intracellular concentration of arginine available for conversion to NO via inducible nitric oxide synthase, the expression of which is known to increase on activation of macrophages or monocytes. Additionally, the rate of l-arginine biosynthesis from glutamine may be increased on immunostimulation of the macrophage.

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