Tryptophan degradation in autoimmune diseases



Recent evidence points to tryptophan (Trp) degradation as a potent immunosuppressive mechanism involved in the maintenance of immunological tolerance. Both Trp depletion and downstream Trp catabolites (TCs) appear to synergistically confer protection against excessive inflammation. In this review, we give an overview of the immunosuppressive properties of Trp degradation with special focus on TCs. Constitutive and inducible Trp degradation in different cell types and tissues of human and murine origin is summarized. We address the influence of Trp degradation on different aspects of autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis. Possible therapeutic approaches for autoimmune disorders targeting Trp degradation are presented, and key issues relevant for the development of such therapeutic strategies are discussed.


Autoimmunity IDO immunosuppression kynurenine multiple sclerosis tolerance tryptophan 

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. A. Opitz
    • 1
    • 2
  • W. Wick
    • 1
    • 2
  • L. Steinman
    • 3
  • M. Platten
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of NeurooncologyUniversity Hospital of Heidelberg and Experimental Neuroimmunology Group, INF 400 and German Cancer Research Center, INF 280HeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Department of General Neurology and Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain ResearchUniversity Hospital of TübingenTübingenGermany
  3. 3.Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Beckman Center for Molecular MedicineStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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