1. The metabolism of L-tryptophan by liver cells prepared from fed and 48 h-starved rats was studied. Methods are described, with the use of L-[ring-2-(14)C], L-[carboxy-14C]-and L-[benzene-ring-U-14C]-tryptophan, for the simultaneous determination of tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase and kynureninase activities and of the oxidation of tryptophan to CO2 and non-aromatic intermediates of the kynurenine-glutarate pathway. 2. At physiological concentrations (0.1 mM), tryptophan was oxidized by tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase at comparable rates in liver cells from both fed and starved rats. Kynureninase activity of hepatocytes from starved rats was 50% greater than that of cells from fed rats. About 10% of the tryptophan metabolized by tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase was degraded completely to CO2. 3. In the presence of 0.5 mM-L-tryptophan, tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase and kynureninase activities increased 5–6-fold. Liver cells from starved rats oxidized tryptophan at about twice the rate of these from fed rats. Degradation of tryptophan to non-aromatic intermediates of the glutarate pathway and CO2 was increased only 3-fold, suggesting an accumulation of aromatic intermediates of the kynurenine pathway. 4. Rates of metabolism with 2.5 mM-L-tryptophan were not significantly different from those obtained with 0.5 mM-tryptophan. 5. Rates of synthesis of quinolinic acid from 0.5 mM-L-tryptophan, determined either by direct quantification or indirectly from rates of radioisotope release from L-[carboxy-(14)C]- and [benzene-ring-U-14C]tryptophan, were essentially similar. 6. At all three concentrations examined, tryptophan was degraded exclusively through kynurenine; there was no evidence of formation of either indol-3-ylacetic acid or 5-hydroxyindol-3-ylacetic acid.
- © 1980 London: The Biochemical Society