Arginine dependence of tumor cells: targeting a chink in cancer's armor

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Arginine, one among the 20 most common natural amino acids, has a pivotal role in cellular physiology as it is being involved in numerous cellular metabolic and signaling pathways. Dependence on arginine is diverse for both tumor and normal cells. Because of decreased expression of argininosuccinate synthetase and/or ornithine transcarbamoylase, several types of tumor are auxotrophic for arginine. Deprivation of arginine exploits a significant vulnerability of these tumor cells and leads to their rapid demise. Hence, enzyme-mediated arginine depletion is a potential strategy for the selective destruction of tumor cells. Arginase, arginine deiminase and arginine decarboxylase are potential enzymes that may be used for arginine deprivation therapy. These arginine catabolizing enzymes not only reduce tumor growth but also make them susceptible to concomitantly administered anti-cancer therapeutics. Most of these enzymes are currently under clinical investigations and if successful will potentially be advanced as anti-cancer modalities.

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