• arginase;
  • interleukin-2;
  • l-arginine;
  • lymphocyte proliferation;
  • neonate


In cases of arginine depletion, lymphocyte proliferation, cytokine production and CD3ζ chain expression are all diminished. In addition to myeloid suppressor cells, polymorphonuclear cells (PMN) also exert T-cell immune suppressive effects through arginase-induced l-arginine depletion, especially during pregnancy. In this study, we investigated how arginase/l-arginine modulates neonatal lymphocyte proliferation. Results showed that the neonatal plasma l-arginine level was lower than in adults (48·1 ± 11·3 versus 86·5 ± 14·6 μm;= 0·003). Neonatal PMN had a greater abundance of arginase I protein than adult PMN. Both transcriptional regulation and post-transcriptional regulation were responsible for the higher arginase I expression of neonatal PMN. Exogenous l-arginine enhanced neonate lymphocyte proliferation but not that of adult cells. The RNA-binding protein HuR was important but was not the only modulation factor in l-arginine-regulated neonatal T-cell proliferation. l-Arginine-mediated neonatal lymphocyte proliferation could not be blocked by interleukin-2 receptor blocking antibodies. These results suggest that the altered arginase/l-arginine cascade may be one of the mechanisms that contribute to altered neonatal immune responses. Exogenous l-arginine could enhance neonate lymphocyte proliferation through an interleukin-2-independent pathway.