The kynurenine pathway is the major route of L-tryptophan (L-Trp) catabolism in biology, leading ultimately to the formation of NAD+. The initial and rate-limiting step of the kynurenine pathway involves oxidation of L-Trp toN-formylkynurenine. This is an O2-dependent process and catalyzed by indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase and tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase. More than 60 years after these dioxygenase enzymes were first isolated (Kotake, Y., and Masayama, I. (1936)Z. Physiol. Chem. 243, 237â€" 244), the mechanism of the reaction is not established. We examined the mechanism of substrate oxidation for a series of substituted tryptophan analogues by indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase. We observed formation of a transient intermediate, assigned as a Compound II (ferryl) species, during oxidation of L-Trp, 1-methyl-L-Trp, and a number of other substrate analogues. The data are consistent with a common reaction mechanism for indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-catalyzed oxidation of tryptophan and other tryptophan analogues.