Increased amounts of neopterin are produced by human monocytes/macrophages upon stimulation with the cytokine interferon-y. Therefore, measurement of neopterin concentrations in body fluids like serum, cerebrospinal fluid or urine provides information about activation of T helper cell 1 derived cellular immune activation. Increased neopterin production is found in infections by viruses including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), infections by intracellular living bacteria and parasites, autoimmune diseases, malignant tumor diseases and in allograft rejection episodes. But also in neurological and in cardiovascular diseases cellular immune activation indicated by increased neopterin production, is found. Major diagnostic applications of neopterin measurements are, e.g. monitoring of allograft recipients to recognize immunological complications early. Neopterin production provides prognostic information in patients with malignant tumor diseases and in HIV-infected individuals, high levels being associated with poorer survival expectations. Neopterin measurements are also useful to monitor therapy in patients with autoimmune disorders and in individuals with HIV infection. Screening of neopterin concentrations in blood donations allows to detect acute infections in a non-specific way and improves safety of blood transfusions. As high neopterin production is associated with increased production of reactive oxygen species and with low serum concentrations of antioxidants like alpha-tocopherol, neopterin can also be regarded as a marker of reactive oxygen species formed by the activated cellular immune system. Therefore, by neopterin measurements not only the extent of cellular immune activation but also the extent of oxidative stress can be estimated.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and the least abundant constituent of proteins. In parallel it represents a source for two important biochemical pathways: the generation of neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) by the tetrahydrobiopterin-dependent tryptophan 5-hydroxylase, and the formation of kynurenine derivatives and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotides initiated by the enzymes tryptophan pyrrolase (tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase, TDO) and indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO). Whereas TDO is located in the liver cells, IDO is expressed in a large variety of cells and is inducible by the cytokine interferon-gamma. Therefore, accelerated tryptophan degradation is observed in diseases and disorders concomitant with cellular immune activation, e. g. infectious, autoimmune, and malignant diseases, as well as during pregnancy. According to the cytostatic and antiproliferative properties of tryptophan-depletion on T lymphocytes, activated T-helper type 1 (Th-1) cells may down-regulate immune response via degradation of tryptophan. Especially in states of persistent immune activation availability of free serum tryptophan is diminished and as a consequence of reduced serotonin production, serotonergic functions may as well be affected. Accumulation of neuroactive kynurenine metabolites such as quinolinic acid may contribute to the development of neurologic/psychiatric disorders. Thus, IDO seems to represent a link between the immunological network and neuroendocrine functions with far reaching consequences in regard to the psychological status of patients. These observations provide a basis for the better understanding of mood disorder and related symptoms in chronic diseases.
Neopterin derivatives are produced by human monocyte-derived macrophages and dendritic cells upon stimulation with interferons. Neopterin concentrations measured in urine or blood reflect activation of cellular immunity and endogenous release of interferon-gamma. This review focuses on the clinical utility of measuring neopterin levels in inflammatory disease and the potential functions of neopterin as a mediator and/or modulator in the course of inflammatory and infectious processes. In vitro-studies revealed that neopterin derivatives exhibit distinct biochemical effects, most likely via interactions with reactive oxygen or nitrogen intermediates, thereby affecting the cellular redox state. Data support the hypothesis that the release of neopterin enhances the cytotoxic potential of activated macrophages and dendritic cells. In vivo, a strong correlation between neopterin levels and the severity, progression, and outcome of infectious and inflammatory diseases was found. The influence of neopterin derivatives on the cellular metabolism may provide an explanation for these clinical observations.
Decreased tryptophan concentrations were found in a significant proportion of coronary heart disease patients and coincided with increased kyn trp-1 and also with increased neopterin concentrations, indicating an activated cellular immune response. We conclude that in coronary heart disease immune activation is associated with an increased rate of tryptophan degradation and thereby lowered tryptophan levels. Results may provide a basis for a better understanding of the pathogenesis of mood disturbances and depression in coronary heart disease patients.
Immune system activation is known to be involved in the progression of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The proinflammatory cytokine interferon-gamma in various cells, including monocytes, induces the enzyme indoleamine (2,3)-dioxygenase (IDO), which converts tryptophan to kynurenine. In sera of 22 patients (17 women and 5 men) with RA stages 1 to 4 according to Steinbrocker, the concentrations of tryptophan and kynurenine were measured by high-pressure liquid chromatography. To estimate IDO activity, the kynurenine to tryptophan ratio (kyn/trp) was calculated. In parallel, concentrations of the macrophage activation marker neopterin were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Tryptophan concentrations were lower in patients with RA, and the decrease in serum tryptophan correlated with increase in stage (p<0.05). Kyn/trp correlated well with neopterin concentrations, which were elevated in most patients. Whereas higher C-reactive protein concentrations and erythrocyte sedimentation rates were observed in patients with greater disease activity, tryptophan and neopterin concentrations did not differ between patients with different subjective disease activity graded by the physician. Deficiency of the essential amino acid tryptophan in patients with RA most likely results from immune activation involved in the pathogenesis of the disease. It could also be relevant for the mood of patients, as tryptophan is the precursor of serotonin.
SUMMARYInhibitors of 3-hydroxy-3methylglutaryl-co-enzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase, so-called statins, are used in medical practice because of their lipid-lowering effect and to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Recent findings indicate that statins also have anti-inflammatory properties and can modulate the immune response. In vitro , we investigated the effect of atorvastatin on the T cell/macrophage system in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and in the human monocytic cell lines THP-1 and MonoMac6. We monitored neopterin production and tryptophan degradation in PBMC after treatment with 10 m M and 100 m M atorvastatin in the presence or absence of 100 U/ml IFN-g , 10 m g/ml phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) or 10 m g/ml concanavalin A (ConA) and in monocytic cell lines THP-1 and MonoMac6 with or without stimulation with 100 U/ml IFN-g or 10 ng/ml to 1 m g/ml lipopolysaccharide (LPS). In stimulated PBMC 100 m M atorvastatin inhibited neopterin formation and tryptophan degradation completely, whereas 10 m M atorvastatin was only partially effective. Also in monocytic cell lines THP-1 and MonoMac6, atorvastatin was able to suppress IFN-g -and LPS-induced formation of neopterin and degradation of tryptophan. Our data from PBMC agree well with previous investigations that statins inhibit T cell activation within the cellular immune response. In addition we demonstrate that atorvastatin directly inhibits IFN-g -mediated pathways in monocytic cells, suggesting that both immunoreactivity of T cells and of monocyte-derived macrophages are down-regulated by this statin.
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