The escape of preneoplastic cells from the immune system, which is caused by immune tolerance, occurs during the development of several types of tumors. Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) plays a critical role in the induction of immune tolerance. In the present study we investigated the effects of 1-methyltryptophan (1-MT), an IDO inhibitor, and (-1;)-epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the major catechin in green tea, on the development of azoxymethane (AOM)-induced colonic preneoplastic lesions by focusing on the inhibition of IDO. To induce colonic premalignant lesions, male F344 rats were injected with AOM (20 mg/kg body weight, s.c.) once a week for 2 weeks. They also received 0.2% 1-MT or 0.1% EGCG in their drinking water for 4 weeks, starting 1 week before the first dose of AOM. Both 1-MT and EGCG significantly decreased the total number of aberrant crypt foci and β-catenin-accumulated crypts, which overexpressed IDO protein. Treatment with EGCG decreased IDO mRNA expression in both the colonic epithelium and stroma of rats induced by AOM. The AOM-induced increase in cyclooxygenase-2 mRNA expression in the colonic stroma was significantly decreased by EGCG. Furthermore, AOM-induced increases in IDO activity in the serum and stroma were significantly inhibited by 1-MT and EGCG. Inhibition of IDO activity by 1-MT and EGCG was also observed in cell-free assays. These findings suggest that upregulation of IDO activity is observed in the early stages of colon carcinogenesis and that the use of IDO inhibitors, such as 1-MT and EGCG, which suppress the occurrence of colonic preneoplastic lesions, could be a novel strategy for the chemoprevention of colon cancer.
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