Kynurenines: Tryptophan’s metabolites in exercise, inflammation, and mental health

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Abstract

Kynurenine metabolites are generated by tryptophan catabolism and regulate biological processes that include host-microbiome signaling, immune cell response, and neuronal excitability. Enzymes of the kynurenine pathway are expressed in different tissues and cell types throughout the body and are regulated by cues, including nutritional and inflammatory signals. As a consequence of this systemic metabolic integration, peripheral inflammation can contribute to accumulation of kynurenine in the brain, which has been associated with depression and schizophrenia. Conversely, kynurenine accumulation can be suppressed by activating kynurenine clearance in exercised skeletal muscle. The effect of exercise training on depression through modulation of the kynurenine pathway highlights an important mechanism of interorgan cross-talk mediated by these metabolites. Here, we discuss peripheral mechanisms of tryptophan-kynurenine metabolism and their effects on inflammatory, metabolic, oncologic, and psychiatric disorders.

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