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Arginine: From Vaccine Stabilization to COVID-19 Immune Function
Arginine, a conditionally essential amino acid, plays a critical role in a myriad of physiological processes. As an intermediate in the urea cycle, arginine is fundamental for nitrogen excretion. Beyond its metabolic role, arginine also acts as a precursor to important molecules, including nitric oxide (NO), polyamines, and agmatine. These multifaceted attributes reveal the potential for arginine to exert biological effects beyond simple nutrient supplementation.
Application of Arginine in Vaccines
Arginine serves as an important ingredient in vaccine formulations, contributing to the stability, potency, and effectiveness of the vaccine. Some of the key roles of arginine in vaccines include:
Arginine helps maintain the stability of vaccine formulations by preventing the degradation of proteins and nucleic acids, which are essential components of many vaccines. It safeguards the structural integrity of antigens or genetic material, ensuring their proper folding and functionality.
Arginine can enhance the immunogenicity of vaccines by promoting antigen uptake and presentation to the immune system. It can improve the effectiveness of antigen delivery systems, such as adjuvants, by promoting immune cell activation, cytokine secretion, and immune response modulation.
- Lyophilization Protection
Amino acids exhibit similar lyoprotection and cryoprotection to commonly used stabilizers such as sugars, but they offer a wider range of chemical structures and physicochemical properties. Their ability to prevent liquid and solid protein aggregation makes them an attractive alternative to freeze-dried protein stabilizers.
- Cell Culture Media
Arginine is often used as a component of cell culture media for vaccine production. L-arginine is commonly known and used as a key ingredient in upstream cell cultures, and it is also used to help prevent aggregation in pharmaceutical formulations containing relatively high concentrations of therapeutic proteins. It provides a nitrogen source for cell growth and supports the replication of virus strains in the manufacturing process.
L-arginine and COVID-19
L-Arginine is involved in many different biological processes, particularly in the control of endothelial and immune activity. There are reports that it may also play a key role in COVID-19. 
- Functional Role of L-Arginine in NO Formation
L-Arginine is a substrate for NOS to produce NO, which has been shown to be a major endothelial relaxing factor. Studies have shown that NO inhibits certain steps of the SARS-CoV replication cycle in a concentration-dependent manner. L-arginine has great potential to become an important endothelial relaxing factor.
- Effects of L-Arginine on the Immune System
Studies have found that patients affected by COVID-19 have significantly lower plasma levels of L-arginine (and L-arginine bioavailability). Reduced L-arginine bioavailability has been shown to result in diminished T-cell responses and function, ultimately leading to increased susceptibility to infection.
- Ayobami Adebayo, et al. Nutrients 2021, 13(11), 3951.
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