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Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2009 Dec;21(12):1239-49. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2982.2009.01370.x. Epub 2009 Jul 28.

Understanding the role of tryptophan and serotonin metabolism in gastrointestinal function.

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Top Institute Food and Nutrition (TIFN), Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Tryptophan is the precursor of a wide array of metabolites, which are involved in a variety of aspects of human nutrition and metabolism. Accumulating evidence suggests a role of tryptophan metabolites, especially serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamin) in intestinal (patho) physiology, although mechanisms of action are still poorly understood. Alterations of serotonin metabolism may give rise to gastrointestinal dysfunction. Recently, it has been postulated that other metabolites of tryptophan, mostly of the kynurenine pathway, also play a role in regulating gut function. This review analyses the current knowledge of the interrelationship between tryptophan metabolic pathways and summarizes the existing scientific evidence regarding the role of tryptophan metabolites in intestinal function and in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal diseases.

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