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Ann Clin Transl Neurol. 2018 Sep 27;5(10):1211-1221. doi: 10.1002/acn3.637. eCollection 2018 Oct.

Altered tryptophan metabolism is associated with pediatric multiple sclerosis risk and course.

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Department of Neurology Johns Hopkins University Baltimore Maryland.
Faculty of Medicine (Neurology) and The Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health University of British Columbia Vancouver British Columbia Canada.
Department of Neurology University of California San Francisco San Francisco California.



To determine if altered tryptophan (Trp) metabolism is associated with MS risk or disease severity in children.


Participants with pediatric-onset MS and clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) within 4 years of disease onset and healthy controls underwent collection of serum. Longitudinal disability and processing speed measures and relapse data were collected in cases. Global metabolomics were conducted in 69/67 cases/controls. Targeted Trp measurement was performed in a discovery group (82 cases, 50 controls) and a validation group (92 cases, 50 controls), while functional gut microbiome analysis was done in 17 cases. Adjusted logistic, linear and negative binomial regression and Cox-proportional hazard models were used.


Using global metabolomics data, higher relative abundances of Trp and indole lactate, a known gut microbiota-derived Trp metabolite, were associated with lower risk of MS. In cases, higher relative abundances of gut microbiota-derived Trp metabolites were associated with lower disability and higher processing speed scores and higher relative abundance of kynurenine was associated with higher relapse rate. Using targeted tryptophan measures, in the discovery and validation groups, each 1 mcg/mL increase in serum Trp level was associated with 20% (95% CI: 4-34%) and 32% (95% CI: 16-44%) decrease in adjusted odds of having MS, respectively. A lower relative abundance of gut microbial genes involved in Trp catabolism was associated with higher relapse risk.


Trp metabolism by the gut microbiota and the kynurenine pathway may be relevant to the risk of MS in children as well as MS activity and severity.

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