Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Immune Influencers in Action: Metabolites and Enzymes of the Tryptophan-Kynurenine Metabolic Pathway

Version 1 : Received: 12 June 2021 / Approved: 14 June 2021 / Online: 14 June 2021 (10:06:50 CEST)

A peer-reviewed article of this Preprint also exists.

Journal reference: Biomedicines 2021
DOI: 10.3390/biomedicines9070734


The tryptophan (TRP)-kynurenine (KYN) metabolic pathway is a main player of TRP metabolism through which more than 95% of TRP is catabolized. The pathway is activated by acute and chronic immune responses leading to a wide range of illnesses including cancer, immune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and psychiatric disorders. The TRP-KYN pathway synthesizes multifarious metabolites including oxidants, antioxidants, neurotoxins, neuroprotectants, and immunomodulators. The immunomodulators are known to facilitate the immune system towards a tolerogenic state, resulting in chronic low-grade inflammation (LGI) that is commonly present in obesity, poor nutrition, exposer to chemicals or allergens, prodromal stage of various illnesses, and chronic diseases. KYN, kynurenic acid, xanthurenic acid, and cinnabarinic acid are aryl hydrocarbon receptor ligands that serve as immunomodulators. Furthermore, TRP-KYN pathway enzymes are known to be activated by the stress hormone cortisol and inflammatory cytokines, and genotypic variants were observed to contribute to inflammation and thus various diseases. The tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase, the indoleamine 2, 3-oxygenases, and the kynurenine-3-monooxygenase are main enzymes in the pathway. This review article discusses the TRP-KYN pathway with special emphasis on its interaction with the immune system and the tolerogenic shift towards chronic LGI and overviews the major symptoms, pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, and toxic and protective KYNs to explore the linkage between chronic LGI, KYNs, and major psychiatric, including depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder.


chronic inflammation; low grade inflammation; immune tolerance; inflammatory factor; kynurenine; kynurenic acid; depression; bipolar disorder; substance use disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder; schizophrenia; autism spectrum disorder



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