Tryptophanemia is controlled by a tryptophan-sensing mechanism ubiquitinating tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase.
Klaessens S., Stroobant V., Hoffmann D., Gyrd-Hansen M., Pilotte L., Vigneron N., De Plaen E., Van den Eynde BJ.
Maintaining stable tryptophan levels is required to control neuronal and immune activity. We report that tryptophan homeostasis is largely controlled by the stability of tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase (TDO), the hepatic enzyme responsible for tryptophan catabolism. High tryptophan levels stabilize the active tetrameric conformation of TDO through binding noncatalytic exosites, resulting in rapid catabolism of tryptophan. In low tryptophan, the lack of tryptophan binding in the exosites destabilizes the tetramer into inactive monomers and dimers and unmasks a four-amino acid degron that triggers TDO polyubiquitination by SKP1-CUL1-F-box complexes, resulting in proteasome-mediated degradation of TDO and rapid interruption of tryptophan catabolism. The nonmetabolizable analog alpha-methyl-tryptophan stabilizes tetrameric TDO and thereby stably reduces tryptophanemia. Our results uncover a mechanism allowing a rapid adaptation of tryptophan catabolism to ensure quick degradation of excess tryptophan while preventing further catabolism below physiological levels. This ensures a tight control of tryptophanemia as required for both neurological and immune homeostasis.