The following is our current working hypothesis concerning the biological significance of IDO induction. When tissues are invaded by virus, bacteria, or parasites, leukocytes and lymphocytes will accumulate at the site and interferon will be produced by these cells in the inflammatory loci. The interferon thus produced is released and interacts with the cell surface to trigger IDO induction in the same or other types of cells. As a consequence of inflammation, superoxide anion is liberated and serves as a substrate for IDO. Although it is possible that some trytophan metabolites may activate the immune system or act as bacteriostatic agents, available evidence does not support this hypothesis. We therefore tentatively conclude that tryptophan is degraded by IDO and depleted, whereby the growth of viruses, bacteria and certain parasites is inhibited, because tryptophan is the least available and therefore most important essential amino acid for their growth.