Glutamine, arginine, and leucine signaling in the intestine Academic Article uri icon


  • Glutamine and leucine are abundant constituents of plant and animal proteins, whereas the content of arginine in foods and physiological fluids varies greatly. Besides their role in protein synthesis, these three amino acids individually activate signaling pathway to promote protein synthesis and possibly inhibit autophagy-mediated protein degradation in intestinal epithelial cells. In addition, glutamine and arginine stimulate the mitogen-activated protein kinase and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)/p70 (s6) kinase pathways, respectively, to enhance mucosal cell migration and restitution. Moreover, through the nitric oxide-dependent cGMP signaling cascade, arginine regulates multiple physiological events in the intestine that are beneficial for cell homeostasis and survival. Available evidence from both in vitro and in vivo animal studies shows that glutamine and arginine promote cell proliferation and exert differential cytoprotective effects in response to nutrient deprivation, oxidative injury, stress, and immunological challenge. Additionally, when nitric oxide is available, leucine increases the migration of intestinal cells. Therefore, through cellular signaling mechanisms, arginine, glutamine, and leucine play crucial roles in intestinal growth, integrity, and function.

altmetric score

  • 8.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Marc Rhoads, J., & Wu, G.

citation count

  • 216
  • 223

publication date

  • May 2009