Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND:  Plasmodium infection depletes arginine, the substrate for nitric oxide synthesis, and impairs endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Increased conversion of arginine to ornithine by parasites or host arginase is a proposed mechanism of arginine depletion. METHODS:  We used high-performance liquid chromatography to measure plasma arginine, ornithine, and citrulline levels in Malawian children with cerebral malaria and in mice infected with Plasmodium berghei ANKA with or without the arginase gene. Heavy isotope-labeled tracers measured by quadrupole time-of-flight liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry were used to quantify the in vivo rate of appearance and interconversion of plasma arginine, ornithine, and citrulline in infected mice. RESULTS:  Children with cerebral malaria and P. berghei-infected mice demonstrated depletion of plasma arginine, ornithine, and citrulline. Knock out of Plasmodium arginase did not alter arginine depletion in infected mice. Metabolic tracer analysis demonstrated that plasma arginase flux was unchanged by P. berghei infection. Instead, infected mice exhibited decreased rates of plasma arginine, ornithine, and citrulline appearance and decreased conversion of plasma citrulline to arginine. Notably, plasma arginine use by nitric oxide synthase was decreased in infected mice. CONCLUSIONS:  Simultaneous arginine and ornithine depletion in malaria parasite-infected children cannot be fully explained by plasma arginase activity. Our mouse model studies suggest that plasma arginine depletion is driven primarily by a decreased rate of appearance.

Original publication




Journal article


J Infect Dis

Publication Date





1840 - 1849


endothelium, host response, metabolism, nitric oxide, plasmodium, urea cycle, Animals, Arginase, Arginine, Child, Child, Preschool, Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid, Citrulline, Female, Humans, Infant, Malaria, Malaria, Cerebral, Malawi, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Ornithine, Plasma, Plasmodium berghei, Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization