Tryptophan‐derived serotonin‐kynurenine balance in immune activation and intestinal inflammation
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Endogenous tryptophan metabolism pathways lead to the production of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT), kynurenine, and several downstream metabolites which are involved in a multitude of immunological functions in both health and disease states. Ingested tryptophan is largely shunted to the kynurenine pathway (95%) while only minor portions (1%-2%) are sequestered for 5-HT production. Though often associated with the functioning of the central nervous system, significant production of 5-HT, kynurenine and their downstream metabolites takes place within the gut. Accumulating evidence suggests that these metabolites have essential roles in regulating immune cell function, intestinal inflammation, as well as in altering the production and suppression of inflammatory cytokines. In addition, both 5-HT and kynurenine have a considerable influence on gut microbiota suggesting that these metabolites impact host physiology both directly and indirectly via compositional changes. It is also now evident that complex interactions exist between the two pathways to maintain gut homeostasis. Alterations in 5-HT and kynurenine are implicated in the pathogenesis of many gastrointestinal dysfunctions, including inflammatory bowel disease. Thus, these pathways present numerous potential therapeutic targets, manipulation of which may aid those suffering from gastrointestinal disorders. This review aims to update both the role of 5-HT and kynurenine in immune regulation and intestinal inflammation, and analyze the current knowledge of the relationship and interactions between 5-HT and kynurenine pathways.
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