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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1986 Sep;83(17):6622-6.

Interferon enhances tryptophan metabolism by inducing pulmonary indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase: its possible occurrence in cancer patients.


Human lungs bearing cancer (n = 27) exhibited up to an approximately 20-fold [on average approximately 5-fold (P less than 0.005)] increase in the enzyme activity that degrades tryptophan to form formylkynurenine, in comparison with lungs with benign lesions (blebs) (n = 7) taken as controls. On the basis of molecular and kinetic properties, this activity was ascribed to indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) [indoleamine:oxygen 2,3-oxidoreductase (decyclizing)]. In vitro studies with human lung slices revealed that human interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) induced the de novo synthesis of IDO dose dependently (10-10(4) units/ml), and at maximum the activity reached nearly 100 times that in the control lungs described above. Human IFN-alpha also served as an inducer, but it was two to three orders of magnitude less potent than IFN-gamma relative to the antiviral titers, suggesting that IFN-gamma is the main mediator of the IDO induction. IDO thus induced in slices avidly metabolized tryptophan in situ: Upon a 24-hr incubation of lung slices pretreated with varied doses of IFN-gamma (10-10(3) units/ml), up to 96% of the tryptophan in the slices was depleted and up to 70% of the tryptophan in the medium was converted, mainly to formylkynurenine, kynurenine, or both. The foregoing results suggest that an IFN-mediated induction of IDO also takes place in vivo in human lungs as a response to cancer, leading to metabolic consequences such as depletion of tryptophan and accumulation of (formyl)kynurenine, which may provide a unique host defense mechanism.

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