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Int J Parasitol. 2004 Nov;34(12):1309-19.

Increased expression of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase in murine malaria infection is predominantly localised to the vascular endothelium.

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Department of Pathology, Institute for Biomedical Research, University of Sydney, Blackburn Building (D06), Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.


Products of the kynurenine pathway of tryptophan metabolism have been implicated in the pathogenesis of murine and human cerebral malaria. Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase is the first and rate-limiting enzyme in this pathway and we have developed an immunohistochemical method for its detection in tissues from normal and malaria-infected mice. Mice were infected with Plasmodium berghei ANKA, a murine model of cerebral malaria, or P. berghei K173, a non-cerebral malaria model. Vascular endothelial cells were the primary sites of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase expression in both types of malaria infection and this response was systemic, with positive staining of vascular endothelium in all tissues examined. No indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase expression was detected in uninfected or interferon-gamma-/- mice. Corroborative data were obtained using quantitative reverse transcription PCR for indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase mRNA. These results suggest that interferon-gamma-dependent indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase expression is part of a normal systemic host response to the parasite, perhaps performing some tissue protective functions that may become deranged under some circumstances and contribute to the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria. On the other hand, constitutive indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase expression in the epididymis and the placenta was detected in both C57Bl/6 wild-type and interferon-gamma-/- mice, suggesting a distinct regulatory mechanism for its induction in these normal physiological situations. Although increased indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase production during murine malaria infection may not by itself cause cerebral pathology, metabolites of the kynurenine pathway may combine with other features of cerebral malaria, such as breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, to influence CNS function and contribute to the symptoms and pathology observed.

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