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Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) is the first and rate-limiting step along the kynurenine pathway and is thought to play a key role in immune homeostasis through depletion of tryptophan and accumulation of kynurenines. In this review we summarize recent research into the possibility of harnessing the IDO pathway for the therapy of rheumatoid arthritis. Inhibition of IDO activity, or knockout of the gene encoding IDO, was shown to cause an increase in the severity of collagen-induced arthritis, an animal model of rheumatoid arthritis. The increased severity of disease was associated with elevated numbers of pathogenic Th1 and Th17 cells in the joints and draining lymph nodes. In another study, analysis of the kinetics of expression of downstream kynurenine pathway enzymes during the course of arthritis revealed a potential role for tryptophan metabolites in resolution of arthritis. Furthermore, the therapeutic administration of L-kynurenine or [3,4-dimethoxycinnamonyl]-anthranilic acid (a synthetic derivative of 3-hydroxy-anthranilic acid) significantly reduced both clinical and histological progression of experimental arthritis. These findings raise the possibility of exploiting the IDO pathway for the therapy of autoimmune disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Tryptophan Res

Publication Date





67 - 73


3-dioxygenase, animal models, indoleamine 2, rheumatoid arthritis