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Int J Tryptophan Res. 2009;2:61-9. Epub 2009 Apr 3.

Effects of Kynurenine Pathway Metabolites on Intracellular NAD Synthesis and Cell Death in Human Primary Astrocytes and Neurons.

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University of New South Wales, Faculty of Medicine, Sydney, Australia.


The kynurenine pathway (KP) is a major route of L-tryptophan catabolism resulting in the production of the essential pyridine nucleotide nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, (NAD(+)). Up-regulation of the KP during inflammation leads to the release of a number of biologically active metabolites into the brain. We hypothesised that while some of the extracellular KP metabolites may be beneficial for intracellular NAD(+) synthesis and cell survival at physiological concentrations, they may contribute to neuronal and astroglial dysfunction and cell death at pathophysiological concentrations. In this study, we found that treatment of human primary neurons and astrocytes with 3-hydroxyanthranilic acid (3-HAA), 3-hydroxykynurenine (3-HK), quinolinic acid (QUIN), and picolinic acid (PIC) at concentrations below 100 nM significantly increased intracellular NAD(+) levels compared to non-treated cells. However, a dose dependent decrease in intracellular NAD(+) levels and increased extracellular LDH activity was observed in human astrocytes and neurons treated with 3-HAA, 3-HK, QUIN and PIC at concentrations >100 nM and kynurenine (KYN), at concentrations above 1 μM. Intracellular NAD(+) levels were unchanged in the presence of the neuroprotectant, kynurenic acid (KYNA), and a dose dependent increase in intracellular NAD(+) levels was observed for TRP up to 1 mM. While anthranilic acid (AA) increased intracellular NAD(+) levels at concentration below 10 μM in astrocytes. NAD(+) depletion and cell death was observed in AA treated neurons at concentrations above 500 nM. Therefore, the differing responses of astrocytes and neurons to an increase in KP metabolites should be considered when assessing KP toxicity during neuroinflammation.

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