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Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Nov;25(8):1576-81. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2011.05.005. Epub 2011 May 17.

Reversal of imbalance between kynurenic acid and 3-hydroxykynurenine by antipsychotics in medication-naïve and medication-free schizophrenic patients.

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Division of Cellular Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, University of Maastricht, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.


The association between the pro-inflammatory state of schizophrenia and increased tryptophan degradation into kynurenine has been reported. However, the relationship between metabolites from subdivisions of the kynurenine pathway, kynurenic acid and 3-hydroxykynurenine, remains unknown. The present study tested the relationship between these kynurenine metabolites in the plasma of medication-naïve (n=35) or medication-free (n=18) patients with schizophrenia at admission and following 6-week antipsychotic treatment compared to healthy controls (n=48). The plasma concentrations of kynurenic acid (nmol/l) were lower (difference=-8.44 (-13.22 to -3.65); p=0.001) and of 3-hydroxykynurenine (nmol/l) were higher (difference=11.24 (8.11-14.37); p<0.001) in the patients compared with the healthy controls. The kynurenic acid/kynurenine (difference=-2.75 (-5.115 to -0.336); p=0.026) and kynurenic acid/3-hydroxykynurenine (difference=-1.08 (-1.431 to -0.729); p<0.001) ratios were also lower in the patients. After the 6-week treatment, the patients' plasma kynurenic acid levels (difference=3.85 (-0.23 to 7.94); p=0.064) showed a trend towards an increase, whereas plasma 3-hydroxykynurenine levels (difference=22.41 (19.76-25.07); p<0.001) decreased. As a consequence, the kynurenic acid/3-hydroxykynurenine ratio (difference=-4.41 (-5.51 to -3.3); p<0.001) increased. Higher initial plasma kynurenic acid levels on admission or increased kynurenic acid/kynurenine ratio after treatment were associated with reduction of clinical symptoms scores upon discharge although higher kynurenic acid/kynurenine on admission may induce higher positive symptoms score. In contrast, higher 3-hydroxykynurenine is associated with lower positive symptoms score. These results indicate that there is an imbalance in the kynurenine pathway in schizophrenia. The 6-week antipsychotic treatment may partially reverse the imbalance in kynurenine metabolism and that in turn induces clinical response.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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