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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Dec 9;338(1):12-9. Epub 2005 Sep 15.

Biochemical and medical aspects of the indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-initiated L-tryptophan metabolism.

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  • 1National Institute for Longevity Sciences, National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, Obu, Aichi 474-8522, Japan.


Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (EC is a heme-containing dioxygenase which catalyzes the first and rate-limiting step in the major pathway of L-tryptophan catabolism in mammals. Much attention has recently been focused on the dioxygenase because this metabolic pathway is involved not only in a variety of physiological functions but also in many diseases. In this review, the discovery and unique catalytic properties of dioxygenase are described first, and then the recent findings regarding the dioxygenase-initiated tryptophan metabolism are summarized, with special emphasis on the detrimental role of dioxygenase in side effects of interferon-gamma and interleukin-12 (by systemic tryptophan depletion), the escape of malignant tumors from immune surveillance (by immunosuppression caused by tryptophan depletion), several neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease (by an aberrant production of neurotoxin, quinolinic acid), and age-related cataract (due to "Kynurenilation," a novel post-translational modification of lens proteins with tryptophan-derived UV filters).

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