Arginase is a widely known enzyme of the urea cycle that catalyzes the hydrolysis of L-arginine to L-ornithine and urea. The action of arginase goes beyond the boundaries of hepatic ureogenic function, being widespread through most tissues. Two arginase isoforms coexist, the type I (Arg1) predominantly expressed in the liver and the type II (Arg2) expressed throughout extrahepatic tissues. By producing L-ornithine while competing with nitric oxide synthase (NOS) for the same substrate (L-arginine), arginase can influence the endogenous levels of polyamines, proline, and NO•. Several pathophysiological processes may deregulate arginase/NOS balance, disturbing the homeostasis and functionality of the organism. Upregulated arginase expression is associated with several pathological processes that can range from cardiovascular, immune-mediated, and tumorigenic conditions to neurodegenerative disorders. Thus, arginase is a potential biomarker of disease progression and severity and has recently been the subject of research studies regarding the therapeutic efficacy of arginase inhibitors. This review gives a comprehensive overview of the pathophysiological role of arginase and the current state of development of arginase inhibitors, discussing the potential of arginase as a molecular imaging biomarker and stimulating the development of novel specific and high-affinity arginase imaging probes.
- nitric oxide
- arginase inhibitors
- molecular imaging
- positron emission tomography (PET)