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The innate immune response is influenced by the nutrient status of the host. Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), such as extracellular signal–regulated kinase 1 (ERK1) and ERK2, are activated after the stimulation of macrophages with bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and are necessary for the optimal production of proinflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor–α (TNF-α). We uncovered a role for the extracellular nutrient arginine in the activation of ERK1/2 in LPS-stimulated macrophages. Arginine facilitated the activation of MAPKs by preventing the dephosphorylation and inactivation of the MAPK kinase kinase tumor-promoting locus 2 (TPL-2). Starvation of mice decreased the concentration of arginine in the plasma and impaired the activation of ERK1/2 by LPS. Supplementation of starved mice with arginine promoted the subsequent activation of ERK1/2 and the production of TNF-α in response to LPS. Thus, arginine is critical for two aspects of the innate immune response in macrophages: It is the precursor used in the generation of the antimicrobial mediator nitric oxide, and it facilitates MAPK activation and consequently cytokine production.