The anti-stress potential of dietary L-arginine (Arg) was assessed in psychosocially stress-loaded senescence-accelerated (SAMP10) mice. Although this strain of mouse is sensitive to stress, daily administration of Arg at 3 mg/kg significantly suppressed aging-related cognitive decline and behavioral depression at nine months of age and counteracted stress-induced shortened lifespan. To investigate the mechanism of the anti-stress effect of Arg in the brain, early changes in oxidative damage and gene expression levels were measured using SAMP10 mice that were stress-loaded for three days. Increased lipid peroxidation in the brains of stressed mice was significantly lowered by Arg intake. Several genes associated with oxidative stress response and neuronal excitotoxic cell death, including Nr4a1
, and Cyr61
, remarkably increased in response to psychosocial stress; however, their expression was significantly suppressed in mice that ingested Arg even under stress conditions. In contrast, the genes that maintain mitochondrial functions and neuronal survival, including Hba-a2
, were significantly increased in mice that ingested Arg. These results indicate that Arg reduces oxidative damage and enhances mitochondrial functions in the brain. We suggest that the daily intake of Arg plays important roles in reducing stress-induced brain damage and slowing aging.
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