Kynurenine metabolism in health and disease

Amino Acids. 2011 Nov;41(5):1173-83. doi: 10.1007/s00726-010-0787-9. Epub 2010 Oct 23.


Kynurenine is a small molecule derived from tryptophan when this amino acid is metabolised via the kynurenine pathway. The biological activity of kynurenine and its metabolites (kynurenines) is well recognised. Therefore, understanding the regulation of the subsequent biochemical reactions is essential for the design of therapeutic strategies which aim to interfere with the kynurenine pathway. However, kynurenine concentration in the body may not only be determined by the efficiency of kynurenine synthesis but also by the rate of kynurenine clearance. In this review, current knowledge about the mechanisms of kynurenine production and routes of its clearance is presented. In addition, the involvement of kynurenine and its metabolites in the biology of different T cell subsets (including Th17 cells and regulatory T cells) and neuronal cells is discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immune System / metabolism*
  • Immunity
  • Kynurenine / biosynthesis*
  • Tryptophan / metabolism


  • Kynurenine
  • Tryptophan