Kynurenine, a Tryptophan Metabolite That Increases with Age, Induces Muscle Atrophy and Lipid Peroxidation

Helen Kaiser, Kanglun Yu, Chirayu Pandya, Bharati Mendhe, Carlos M. Isales, Meghan E. McGee-Lawrence, Maribeth Johnson, Sadanand Fulzele, Mark W. Hamrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


The cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying loss of muscle mass with age (sarcopenia) are not well-understood; however, heterochronic parabiosis experiments show that circulating factors are likely to play a role. Kynurenine (KYN) is a circulating tryptophan metabolite that is known to increase with age and is a ligand of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (Ahr). Here, we tested the hypothesis that KYN activation of Ahr plays a role in muscle loss with aging. Results indicate that KYN treatment of mouse and human myoblasts increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) 2-fold and KYN treatment in vivo reduced muscle size and strength and increased muscle lipid peroxidation in young mice. PCR array data indicate that muscle fiber size reduction with KYN treatment reduces protein synthesis markers whereas ubiquitin ligase gene expression is not significantly increased. KYN is generated by the enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), and aged mice treated with the IDO inhibitor 1-methyl-D-tryptophan showed an increase in muscle fiber size and muscle strength. Small-molecule inhibition of Ahr in vitro, and Ahr knockout in vivo, did not prevent KYN-induced increases in ROS, suggesting that KYN can directly increase ROS independent of Ahr activation. Protein analysis identified very long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase as a factor activated by KYN that may increase ROS and lipid peroxidation. Our data suggest that IDO inhibition may represent a novel therapeutic approach for the prevention of sarcopenia and possibly other age-associated conditions associated with KYN accumulation such as bone loss and neurodegeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9894238
JournalOxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Helen Kaiser et al.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Aging
  • Cell Biology


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