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Brain Res. 2012 May 21;1455:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2012.03.026. Epub 2012 Mar 17.

Kynurenic acid and 3-hydroxykynurenine production from D-kynurenine in mice.

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Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21228, USA.


Kynurenic acid (KYNA), an antagonist of the α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor and the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor, and 3-hydroxykynurenine (3-HK), a generator of reactive oxygen species, are neuroactive metabolites of the kynurenine pathway of tryptophan degradation. In the mammalian brain as elsewhere, both compounds derive from a common bioprecursor, L-kynurenine (L-KYN). Recent studies in rats demonstrated that D-kynurenine (D-KYN), a metabolite of the bacterial amino acid D-tryptophan, can also function as a bioprecursor of brain KYNA. We now investigated the conversion of systemically administered D-KYN to KYNA in mice and also explored the possible production of 3-HK in the same animals. Thirty min after an injection of D-KYN or L-KYN (30 mg/kg, i.p.), newly produced KYNA and 3-HK were recovered from plasma, liver, forebrain and cerebellum in all cases. Using a new chiral separation method, 3-HK produced from D-KYN was positively identified as D-3-HK. L-KYN was the more effective precursor of KYNA in all tissues and also exceeded D-KYN as a precursor of brain 3-HK. In contrast, D-KYN was more potent as a precursor of 3-HK in the liver. The production of both KYNA and 3-HK from D-KYN was rapid in all tissues, peaking at 15-30 min following a systemic injection of D-KYN. These results show that biosynthetic routes other than those classically ascribed to L-KYN can account for the synthesis of both KYNA and 3-HK in vivo. This new insight may be of significant physiological or pathological relevance.

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