Disturbed tryptophan metabolism in cardiovascular disease.Curr Med Chem. 2014 Jun; 21(17):1931-7.CM
Atherosclerosis (AS), a major pathologic consequence of obesity, is the main etiological factor of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is the most common cause of death in the western world. A systemic chronic low grade immune- mediated inflammation (scLGI) is substantially implicated in AS and its consequences. In particular, proinflammatory cytokines play a major role, with Th1-type cytokine interferon-γ (IFN-γ) being a key mediator. Among various other molecular and cellular effects, IFN-γ activates the enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) in monocyte-derived macrophages, dendritic, and other cells, which, in turn, decreases serum levels of the essential amino acid tryptophan (TRP). Thus, people with CVD often have increased serum kynurenine to tryptophan ratios (KYN/TRP), a result of an increased TRP breakdown. Importantly, increased KYN/TRP is associated with a higher likelihood of fatal cardiovascular events. A scLGI with increased production of the proinflammatory adipokine leptin, in combination with IFN-γ and interleukin-6 (IL-6), represents another central link between obesity, AS, and CVD. Leptin has also been shown to contribute to Th1-type immunity shifting, with abdominal fat being thus a direct contributor to KYN/TRP ratio. However, TRP is not only an important source for protein production but also for the generation of one of the most important neurotransmitters, 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin), by the tetrahydrobiopterin-dependent TRP 5-hydroxylase. In prolonged states of scLGI, availability of free serum TRP is strongly diminished, affecting serotonin synthesis, particularly in the brain. Additionally, accumulation of neurotoxic KYN metabolites such as quinolinic acid produced by microglia, can contribute to the development of depression via NMDA glutamatergic stimulation. Depression had been reported to be associated with CVD endpoints, but it most likely represents only a secondary loop connecting excess adipose tissue, scLGI and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Accelerated catabolism of TRP is further involved in the pathogenesis of the anemia of scLGI. The pro-inflammatory cytokine IFN-γ suppresses growth and differentiation of erythroid progenitor cells, and the depletion of TRP limits protein synthesis and thus hemoglobin production, and, through reduction in oxygen supply, may contribute to ischemic vascular disease. In this review we discuss the impact of TRP breakdown and the related complex mechanisms on the prognosis and individual course of CVD. Measurement of TRP, KYN concentrations, and calculation of the KYN/TRYP ratio will contribute to a better understanding of the interplay between inflammation, metabolic syndrome, mood disturbance, and anemia, all previously described as significant predictors of an unfavorable outcome in patients with CVD. The review leads to a novel framework for successful therapeutic modification of several cardinal pathophysiological processes leading to adverse cardiovascular outcome.