Tryptophan degradation as a systems phenomenon in inflammation - an analysis across 13 chronic inflammatory diseases

Danielle M M Harris, Silke Szymczak, Sven Schuchardt, Johannes Labrenz, Florian Tran, Lina Welz, Hanna Graßhoff, Henner Zirpel, Melike Sümbül, Mhmd Oumari, Nils Engelbogen, Ralf Junker, Claudio Conrad, Diamant Thaçi, Norbert Frey, Andre Franke, Stephan Weidinger, Bimba Hoyer, Philip Rosenstiel, Silvio WaschinaStefan Schreiber, Konrad Aden


BACKGROUND: Chronic inflammatory diseases (CIDs) are systems disorders that affect diverse organs including the intestine, joints and skin. The essential amino acid tryptophan (Trp) can be broken down to various bioactive derivatives important for immune regulation. Increased Trp catabolism has been observed in some CIDs, so we aimed to characterise the specificity and extent of Trp degradation as a systems phenomenon across CIDs.

METHODS: We used high performance liquid chromatography and targeted mass spectrometry to assess the serum and stool levels of Trp and Trp derivatives. Our retrospective study incorporates both cross-sectional and longitudinal components, as we have included a healthy population as a reference and there are also multiple observations per patient over time.

FINDINGS: We found reduced serum Trp levels across the majority of CIDs, and a prevailing negative relationship between Trp and systemic inflammatory marker C-reactive protein (CRP). Notably, serum Trp was low in several CIDs even in the absence of measurable systemic inflammation. Increases in the kynurenine-to-Trp ratio (Kyn:Trp) suggest that these changes result from increased degradation along the kynurenine pathway.

INTERPRETATION: Increases in Kyn:Trp indicate the kynurenine pathway as a major route for CID-related Trp metabolism disruption and the specificity of the network changes indicates excessive Trp degradation relative to other proteogenic amino acids. Our results suggest that increased Trp catabolism is a common metabolic occurrence in CIDs that may directly affect systemic immunity.

FUNDING: This work was supported by the DFG Cluster of Excellence 2167 "Precision medicine in chronic inflammation" (KA, SSchr, PR, BH, SWa), the BMBF (e:Med Juniorverbund "Try-IBD" 01ZX1915A and 01ZX2215, the e:Med Network iTREAT 01ZX2202A, and GUIDE-IBD 031L0188A), EKFS (2020_EKCS.11, KA), DFG RU5042 (PR, KA), and Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertakings ("Taxonomy, Treatments, Targets and Remission", 831434, "ImmUniverse", 853995, "BIOMAP", 821511).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105056
Publication statusPublished - 04.2024


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