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Peripheral and central levels of kynurenic acid in bipolar disorder subjects and healthy controls

Journal article
Authors C. M. Sellgren
J. Gracias
O. Jungholm
R. H. Perlis
G. Engberg
L. Schwieler
Mikael Landén
S. Erhardt
Published in Translational Psychiatry
Volume 9
ISSN 2158-3188
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Language en
Keywords cerebrospinal-fluid, pathway metabolism, elevated levels, brain, schizophrenia, interleukin-1-beta, individuals, tryptophan, activation, cortex
Subject categories Psychiatry, Neurosciences


Metabolites of the kynurenine pathway of tryptophan degradation, in particular, the N-Methyl-D-aspartic acid receptor antagonist kynurenic acid (KYNA), are increasingly recognized as primary pathophysiological promoters in several psychiatric diseases. Studies analyzing central KYNA levels from subjects with psychotic disorders have reported increased levels. However, sample sizes are limited and in contrast many larger studies examining this compound in blood from psychotic patients commonly report a decrease. A major question is to what extent peripheral KYNA levels reflect brain KYNA levels under physiological as well as pathophysiological conditions. Here we measured KYNA in plasma from a total of 277 subjects with detailed phenotypic data, including 163 BD subjects and 114 matched healthy controls (HCs), using an HPLC system. Among them, 94 BD subjects and 113 HCs also had CSF KYNA concentrations analyzed. We observe a selective increase of CSF KYNA in BD subjects with previous psychotic episodes although this group did not display altered plasma KYNA levels. In contrast, BD subjects with ongoing depressive symptoms displayed a tendency to decreased plasma KYNA concentrations but unchanged CSF KYNA levels. Sex and age displayed specific effects on KYNA concentrations depending on if measured centrally or in the periphery. These findings implicate brain-specific regulation of KYNA under physiological as well as under pathophysiological conditions and strengthen our previous observation of CSF KYNA as a biomarker in BD. In summary, biomarker and drug discovery studies should include central KYNA measurements for a more reliable estimation of brain KYNA levels.

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