Dietary arginine supplementation of mice alters the microbial population and activates intestinal innate immunity.
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Currently, little is known about the function of arginine in the homeostasis of the intestinal immune system. This study was conducted to test the hypothesis that dietary arginine supplementation may alter intestinal microbiota and innate immunity in mice. Mice were fed a basal diet (containing 0.93% l-arginine; grams per gram) or the basal diet supplemented with 0.5% l-arginine for 14 d. We studied the composition of intestinal microbiota, the activation of innate immunity, and the expression of toll-like receptors (Tlrs), proinflammatory cytokines, and antimicrobials in the jejunum, ileum, or colon of mice. Signal transduction pathway activation in the jejunum and ileum, including TLR4-nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-B), mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), and phosphoinositide-3 kinase (PI3K)/PI3K-protein kinase B (Akt), was analyzed by Western blotting. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis revealed that arginine supplementation induced (P < 0.05) a shift in the Firmicutes-to-Bacteroidetes ratio to favor Bacteroidetes in the jejunum (0.33 0.04 vs. 1.0 0.22) and ileum (0.20 0.08 vs. 1.0 0.27) compared with the control group. This finding coincided with greater (P < 0.05) activation of the innate immune system, including TLR signaling, as well as expression of proinflammatory cytokines, secretory immunoglobulin A, mucins, and Paneth antimicrobials in the jejunum and ileum. Finally, arginine supplementation reduced (P < 0.05) expression of the proteins for NF-B, MAPK, and PI3K-Akt signaling pathways but activated (P < 0.05) p38 and c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase in the jejunum and the ileum, respectively. Collectively, dietary arginine supplementation of mice changes the intestinal microbiota, contributing to the activation of intestinal innate immunity through NF-B, MAPK, and PI3K-phosphorylated Akt signaling pathways.