The genetic architecture of plasma kynurenine includes cardiometabolic disease mechanisms associated with the SH2B3 gene

Minoo Bagheri, Chuan Wang, Mingjian Shi, Ali Manouchehri, Katherine T. Murray, Matthew B. Murphy, Christian M. Shaffer, Kritika Singh, Lea K. Davis, Gail P. Jarvik, Ian B. Stanaway, Scott Hebbring, Muredach P. Reilly, Robert E. Gerszten, Thomas J. Wang, Jonathan D. Mosley, Jane F. Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Inflammation increases the risk of cardiometabolic disease. Delineating specific inflammatory pathways and biomarkers of their activity could identify the mechanistic underpinnings of the increased risk. Plasma levels of kynurenine, a metabolite involved in inflammation, associates with cardiometabolic disease risk. We used genetic approaches to identify inflammatory mechanisms associated with kynurenine variability and their relationship to cardiometabolic disease. We identified single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) previously associated with plasma kynurenine, including a missense-variant (rs3184504) in the inflammatory gene SH2B3/LNK. We examined the association between rs3184504 and plasma kynurenine in independent human samples, and measured kynurenine levels in SH2B3-knock-out mice and during human LPS-evoked endotoxemia. We conducted phenome scanning to identify clinical phenotypes associated with each kynurenine-related SNP and with a kynurenine polygenic score using the UK-Biobank (n = 456,422), BioVU (n = 62,303), and Electronic Medical Records and Genetics (n = 32,324) databases. The SH2B3 missense variant associated with plasma kynurenine levels and SH2B3−/− mice had significant tissue-specific differences in kynurenine levels.LPS, an acute inflammatory stimulus, increased plasma kynurenine in humans. Mendelian randomization showed increased waist-circumference, a marker of central obesity, associated with increased kynurenine, and increased kynurenine associated with C-reactive protein (CRP). We found 30 diagnoses associated (FDR q < 0.05) with the SH2B3 variant, but not with SNPs mapping to genes known to regulate tryptophan-kynurenine metabolism. Plasma kynurenine may be a biomarker of acute and chronic inflammation involving the SH2B3 pathways. Its regulation lies upstream of CRP, suggesting that kynurenine may be a biomarker of one inflammatory mechanism contributing to increased cardiometabolic disease risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15652
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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