Tryptophan

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L-Tryptophan
Structure of L-isomer
Names
IUPAC name
Tryptophan or (2S)-2-amino-3-(1H-indol-3-yl)propanoic acid
Other names
2-Amino-3-(1H-indol-3-yl)propanoic acid
Identifiers
73-22-3 YesY
ChEBI CHEBI:27897 N
ChEMBL ChEMBL54976 YesY
ChemSpider 6066 YesY
DrugBank DB00150 YesY
717
Jmol 3D model Interactive image
KEGG D00020 YesY
PubChem 6305
UNII 8DUH1N11BX YesY
Properties
C11H12N2O2
Molar mass 204.23 g·mol−1
Soluble: 0.23 g/L at 0 °C,

11.4 g/L at 25 °C,
17.1 g/L at 50 °C,
27.95 g/L at 75 °C

Solubility Soluble in hot alcohol, alkali hydroxides; insoluble in chloroform.
Acidity (pKa) 2.38 (carboxyl), 9.39 (amino)[1]
Pharmacology
N06AX02 (WHO)
Supplementary data page
Refractive index (n),
Dielectric constantr), etc.
Thermodynamic
data
Phase behaviour
solid–liquid–gas
UV, IR, NMR, MS
N verify (what is YesYN ?)
Infobox references

Tryptophan (abbreviated as Trp or W; encoded by the codon UGG) is an α-amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. It contains an α-amino group (which is in the protonated –NH3+ form under biological conditions), an α-carboxylic acid group (which is in the deprotonated –COO form under biological conditions), and a side chain indole, classifying it as a non-polar, aromatic amino acid. It is essential in humans, meaning the body cannot synthesize it and thus it must be obtained from the diet.

Tryptophan is also a precursor to neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin.[2]

Isolation[edit]

The isolation of tryptophan was first reported by Frederick Hopkins in 1901[3] through hydrolysis of casein. From 600 grams of crude casein one obtains 4-8 grams of tryptophan.[4]

Biosynthesis and industrial production[edit]

As an essential amino acid, tryptophan is not synthesized from more basic substances in humans and other animals, who must ingest tryptophan or tryptophan-containing proteins. Plants and microorganisms commonly synthesize tryptophan from shikimic acid or anthranilate[5] by the following process: anthranilate condenses with phosphoribosylpyrophosphate (PRPP), generating pyrophosphate as a by-product. The ring of the ribose moiety is opened and subjected to reductive decarboxylation, producing indole-3-glycerinephosphate; this, in turn, is transformed into indole. In the last step, tryptophan synthase catalyzes the formation of tryptophan from indole and the amino acid serine.

Tryptophan biosynthesis (en).svg

The industrial production of tryptophan is also biosynthetic and is based on the fermentation of serine and indole using either wild-type or genetically modified bacteria such as B. amyloliquefaciens, B. subtilis, C. glutamicum or E. coli. These strains carry either mutations that prevent the reuptake of aromatic amino acids or multiple/overexpressed trp operons. The conversion is catalyzed by the enzyme tryptophan synthase.[6][7][8]

Function[edit]

Metabolism of L-tryptophan into serotonin and melatonin (left) and niacin (right). Transformed functional groups after each chemical reaction are highlighted in red.

For many organisms (including humans), tryptophan is needed to prevent illness or death, but cannot be synthesized by the organism and must be ingested; in short, it is an essential amino acid. Amino acids, including tryptophan, act as building blocks in protein biosynthesis, and proteins are required to sustain life. In addition, tryptophan functions as a biochemical precursor for the following compounds (see also figure to the right):

The disorder fructose malabsorption causes improper absorption of tryptophan in the intestine, reduced levels of tryptophan in the blood,[14] and depression.[15] Some studies did not find reduced tryptophan in cases of lactose maldigestion.[14]

In bacteria that synthesize tryptophan, high cellular levels of this amino acid activate a repressor protein, which binds to the trp operon.[16] Binding of this repressor to the tryptophan operon prevents transcription of downstream DNA that codes for the enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of tryptophan. So high levels of tryptophan prevent tryptophan synthesis through a negative feedback loop and, when the cell's tryptophan levels are reduced, transcription from the trp operon resumes. The genetic organisation of the trp operon thus permits tightly regulated and rapid responses to changes in the cell's internal and external tryptophan levels.

Tryptophan metabolism by human gastrointestinal microbiota (v · t · e)
Tryptophan metabolism diagram
This diagram shows the biosynthesis of bioactive compounds (indole and certain derivatives) from tryptophan by bacteria in the gut.[17] Indole is produced from tryptophan by bacteria that express tryptophanase.[17] Clostridium sporogenes metabolizes indole into 3-indolepropionic acid (IPA),[18] a highly potent neuroprotective antioxidant that scavenges hydroxyl radicals.[17][19][20] In the intestine, IPA binds to pregnane X receptors (PXR) in intestinal cells, thereby facilitating mucosal homeostasis and barrier function.[17] Following absorption from the intestine and distribution to the brain, IPA confers a neuroprotective effect against cerebral ischemia and Alzheimer’s disease.[17] Lactobacillus species metabolize tryptophan into indole-3-aldehyde (I3A) which acts on the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) in intestinal immune cells, in turn increasing interleukin-22 (IL-22) production.[17] Indole itself acts as a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) secretagogue in intestinal L cells and as a ligand for AhR.[17] Indole can also be metabolized by the liver into indoxyl sulfate, a compound that is toxic in high concentrations and associated with vascular disease and renal dysfunction.[17] AST-120 (activated charcoal), an intestinal sorbent that is taken by mouth, adsorbs indole, in turn decreasing the concentration of indoxyl sulfate in blood plasma.[17]

Dietary sources[edit]

Tryptophan is a routine constituent of most protein-based foods or dietary proteins. It is particularly plentiful in chocolate, oats, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, spirulina, bananas, and peanuts. Contrary to the popular belief[21][22][23] that turkey contains an abundance of tryptophan, the tryptophan content in turkey is typical of poultry.[24]

Tryptophan (Trp) Content of Various Foods[24][25]
Food Tryptophan
[g/100 g of food]
Protein
[g/100 g of food]
Tryptophan/Protein [%]
egg white, dried
1.00
81.10
1.23
spirulina, dried
0.93
57.47
1.62
cod, atlantic, dried
0.70
62.82
1.11
soybeans, raw
0.59
36.49
1.62
cheese, Parmesan
0.56
37.90
1.47
sesame seed
0.37
17.00
2.17
cheese, cheddar
0.32
24.90
1.29
sunflower seed
0.30
17.20
1.74
pork, chop
0.25
19.27
1.27
turkey
0.24
21.89
1.11
chicken
0.24
20.85
1.14
beef
0.23
20.13
1.12
oats
0.23
16.89
1.39
salmon
0.22
19.84
1.12
lamb, chop
0.21
18.33
1.17
perch, Atlantic
0.21
18.62
1.12
chickpeas, raw
0.19
19.30
0.96
egg
0.17
12.58
1.33
wheat flour, white
0.13
10.33
1.23
baking chocolate, unsweetened
0.13
12.9
1.23
milk
0.08
3.22
2.34
rice, white, medium-grain, cooked
0.028
2.38
1.18
quinoa, uncooked
0.167
14.12
1.2
quinoa, cooked
0.052
4.40
1.1
potatoes, russet
0.02
2.14
0.84
tamarind
0.018
2.80
0.64
banana
0.01
1.03
0.87

Turkey meat and drowsiness[edit]

A common assertion in the US is that heavy consumption of turkey meat results in drowsiness, due to high levels of tryptophan contained in turkey.[21][23] However, the amount of tryptophan in turkey is comparable to that contained in other meats.[22][24] Drowsiness after eating may be caused by other foods eaten with the turkey, particularly carbohydrates.[26] It has been demonstrated in both animal[27] and human tests[28][29][30] that ingestion of a meal rich in carbohydrates triggers release of insulin. Insulin in turn stimulates the uptake of large neutral branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), but not tryptophan into muscle, increasing the ratio of tryptophan to BCAA in the blood stream. The resulting increased tryptophan ratio reduces competition at the large neutral amino acid transporter (which transports both BCAA and aromatic amino acids), resulting in more uptake of tryptophan across the blood–brain barrier into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).[31][32] Once in the CSF, tryptophan is converted into serotonin in the raphe nuclei by the normal enzymatic pathway.[27][29] The resultant serotonin is further metabolised into melatonin by the pineal gland.[11] Hence, this data suggests that "feast-induced drowsiness"—or postprandial somnolence—may be the result of a heavy meal rich in carbohydrates, which indirectly increases the production of sleep-promoting melatonin in the brain.[27][28][29][30]

Use as a dietary supplement[edit]

Tryptophan is sold over the counter in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom as a dietary supplement for use as an antidepressant, anxiolytic, and sleep aid. It is also marketed as a prescription drug in some European countries for the indication of major depression under various trade names.

Since tryptophan is converted into 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) which is subsequently converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin, it has been proposed that consumption of tryptophan or 5-HTP may therefore improve depression symptoms by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain. In 2001 a Cochrane Review of the effect of 5-HTP and tryptophan on depression was published. The authors included only studies of a high rigor and included both 5-HTP and tryptophan in their review because of the limited data on either. Of 108 studies of 5-HTP and tryptophan on depression published between 1966 and 2000, only two met the authors' quality standards for inclusion, totaling 64 study participants. The substances were more effective than placebo in the two studies included but the authors state that, "the evidence was of insufficient quality to be conclusive," and note, "because alternative antidepressants exist which have been proven to be effective and safe, the clinical usefulness of 5-HTP and tryptophan is limited at present."[33] The use of tryptophan as an adjunctive therapy in addition to standard treatment for mood and anxiety disorders is not supported by the scientific evidence.[34] Due to the lack of high quality studies and preliminary nature of studies showing effectiveness and the lack of adequate study on their safety, the use of tryptophan and 5-HTP is not highly recommended or thought to be clinically useful.[33][34]

There is evidence that blood tryptophan levels are unlikely to be altered by changing the diet,[35] but tryptophan is available in health food stores as a dietary supplement.[36] Consuming purified tryptophan increases brain serotonin whereas eating foods containing tryptophan does not.[37] This is because the transport system which brings tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier is also selective for the other amino acids which are contained in protein food sources.[38] High blood plasma levels of other large neutral amino acids prevent the plasma concentration of tryptophan from increasing brain concentration levels.[38]

Side effects[edit]

Potential side effects of tryptophan include nausea, diarrhea, drowsiness, lightheadedness, headache, dry mouth, blurred vision, sedation, euphoria, and nystagmus (involuntary eye movements).[39][40] Because tryptophan has not been thoroughly studied in a clinical setting, possible side effects and interactions with other drugs are not well known.[33]

Interactions[edit]

Tryptophan taken as a dietary supplement (such as in tablet form) has the potential to cause serotonin syndrome when combined with antidepressants of the MAOI or SSRI class or other strongly serotonergic drugs.[40] Normal dietary intake of tryptophan in food would not be expected to cause serotonin syndrome.

Research[edit]

In 1912 Felix Ehrlich demonstrated that yeast attacks the natural amino acids essentially by splitting off carbon dioxide and replacing the amino group with hydroxyl. By this reaction, tryptophan gives rise to tryptophol.[41]

Tryptophan affects brain serotonin synthesis when given orally in a purified form and is used to modify serotonin levels for research in psychology.[37] Low brain serotonin is induced by administration of tryptophan-poor protein in a technique called 'acute tryptophan depletion'.[42] Studies using this method have evaluated the effect of serotonin on mood and social behavior, finding that serotonin reduces aggression and increases agreeableness.[43]

Fluorescence[edit]

Tryptophan is an important intrinsic fluorescent probe (amino acid), which can be used to estimate the nature of microenvironment of the tryptophan. Most of the intrinsic fluorescence emissions of a folded protein are due to excitation of tryptophan residues.

Safety[edit]

Eosinophilia–myalgia syndrome[edit]

There was a large outbreak of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) in the U.S. in 1989, with more than 1,500 cases reported to the CDC and at least 37 deaths. After preliminary investigation revealed that the outbreak was linked to intake of tryptophan, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned most tryptophan from sale in the US in 1991, and other countries followed suit.[44]

Subsequent epidemiological studies suggested that EMS was linked to specific batches of L-tryptophan supplied by a single large Japanese manufacturer, Showa Denko.[44][45][46][47] It eventually became clear that recent batches of Showa Denko's L-tryptophan were contaminated by trace impurities, which were subsequently thought to be responsible for the 1989 EMS outbreak.[44][48][49] However, other evidence suggests that tryptophan itself may be a potentially major contributory factor in EMS.[50]

The FDA loosened its restrictions on sales and marketing of tryptophan in February 2001, but continued to limit the importation of tryptophan not intended for an exempted use until 2005.[44]

The fact that the Showa Denko facility used genetically engineered bacteria to produce the contaminated batches of L-tryptophan later found to have caused the outbreak of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome has been cited as evidence of a need for "close monitoring of the chemical purity of biotechnology-derived products."[51] Those calling for purity monitoring have, in turn, been criticized as anti-GMO activists who overlook possible non-GMO causes of contamination and threaten the development of biotech.[52]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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    Table 2: Microbial metabolites: their synthesis, mechanisms of action, and effects on health and disease
    Figure 1: Molecular mechanisms of action of indole and its metabolites on host physiology and disease
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    IPA metabolism diagram
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    Origin:  • Endogenous  • Microbial
     
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External links[edit]