L-arginine (L-Arg), the precursor of nitric oxide (NO), plays multiple important roles in nutrient metabolism and immune regulation. L-Arg supplement serves as a potential adjunctive therapy for severe malaria, because it improves NO bioavailability and reverses endothelial dysfunction in severe malaria patients. In this study, we investigated the effect of dietary L-Arg supplement on host immune responses during subsequent malaria infection using the Plasmodium yoelii 17XL - BALB/c mouse model. We have shown that pretreatment of mice with L-Arg significantly decreased parasitemia and prolonged the survival time of mice after infection. L-Arg supplement led to significant increases in activated CD4+T-bet+IFN-γ+ T cells and F4/80+CD36+ macrophages during early-stage infection, which were accompanied by enhanced synthesis of IFN-γ, TNF-α and NO by spleen cells. Moreover, L-Arg-pretreated mice developed more splenic myeloid and plasmacytoid dendritic cells with up-regulated expression of MHC II, CD86 and TLR9. In comparison, L-Arg treatment did not change the number of regulatory T cells and the level of anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. Taken together, our results showed that L-Arg pretreatment could improve the protective immune response in experimental malaria infection in mice, which underlines potential importance of L-Arg supplement in malaria-endemic human populations.
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