This study was conducted to test the hypothesis that elevated dietary arginine enhances immunity of juvenile Jian carp (Cyprinus carpio var. Jian). Fish were fed graded levels of dietary arginine for 9 weeks. Subsequently, a challenge test was conducted by injection of Aeromonas hydrophila. Head kidney and spleen weights, as well as erythrocyte and leukocyte counts were significantly influenced by dietary arginine levels. A similar trend was also observed for hemagglutination titre, serum lysozyme activity, IgM concentration, C3 and C4 content. The highest survival rates following A. hydrophila infection were obtained in fish fed the diets containing arginine at 16.1-21.9 g/kg diet. Phagocytic activity of leukocytes was significantly enhanced by dietary arginine supplementation. In contrast, acid phosphatase activity significantly decreased with dietary arginine levels. Dietary arginine levels did not have a significant effect on the total iron-binding capacity. Gene expression of TNF-alpha and TGF-beta in head kidney significantly increased with dietary arginine levels up to 21.9 g/kg diet, and decreased thereafter. Fish fed the basal diet exhibited the highest IL-10 mRNA expression level. Gene expression of IL-1 beta and TOR increased with dietary arginine addition, reaching a plateau at 18.5 and 21.9 g arginine/kg diet, respectively. In spleen, higher IL-1 beta and TNF-alpha gene expressions were obtained in fish fed the diets containing 24.5 g arginine/kg diet than in fish fed the other dietary treatments. TGF-beta mRNA expression levels were significantly lower in fish fed the diets containing <= 21.9 g arginine/kg diet. IL-10 and TOR mRNA expression levels were lower in fish fed 16.1 g arginine/kg diet, while 4E-BP mRNA expression levels increased with dietary arginine levels up to 12.7 g/kg diet and decreased thereafter. Our results indicate that arginine has beneficial effects on regulating mRNA expression of inflammatory cytokines, as well as TOR and 4E-BP and improving humoral and cellular immunity, therefore enhancing disease resistance of fish. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.