Immune-Kynurenine Pathways and the Gut Microbiota-Brain Axis in Anxiety Disorders

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1191:155-167. doi: 10.1007/978-981-32-9705-0_10.


Anxiety disorders are a complex set of illnesses in which genetic factors, particularly stress, play a role in the etiopathogenesis. In recent years, inflammation and intestinal microbiota have also been included in this complex network of relationships. The functions associated with tryptophan catabolism and serotonin biosynthesis have long been associated with anxiety disorders. Tryptophan catabolism progresses toward the path of the kynurenine in the presence of stress and inflammation. The catabolism of kynurenine is a pathway in which many enzymes play a role and a large number of catabolites with neuroactive properties occur. The body's serotonin biosynthesis is primarily performed by enterochromaffin cells located in the intestines. A change in the intestinal microbiota composition (dysbiosis) directly affects the serotonin biosynthesis. Stress, unhealthy nutrition, and the use of antibiotics cause dysbiosis. In the light of this new perspective, the role of dysbiosis-induced inflammation and kynurenine pathway catabolites activated sequentially come into prominence in the etiopathogenesis of anxiety disorders.

Keywords: Anxiety; Gut-brain axis; Immune system; Kynurenine; Microbiota; Serotonin; Tryptophan.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / metabolism*
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Dysbiosis / metabolism
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Kynurenine / metabolism*
  • Serotonin / biosynthesis
  • Serotonin / metabolism


  • Serotonin
  • Kynurenine