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Curr Med Chem. 2015;22(24):2902-18.

Kynurenine Aminotransferases and the Prospects of Inhibitors for the Treatment of Schizophrenia.

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Faculty of Pharmacy A15, The University of Sydney, Sydney NSW 2006, Australia.


Schizophrenia is a complex neuropsychiatric disorder with limited treatment options and highly debilitating symptoms, leading to poor personal, social, and occupational outcomes for an afflicted individual. Our current understanding of schizophrenia suggests that dopaminergic and glutamatergic systems have a significant role in the pathogenesis of the disease. Kynurenic acid, an endogenous glutamate antagonist, is found in elevated concentrations in the prefrontal cortex and cerebrospinal fluid of patients with schizophrenia, and this affects neurotransmitter release in a similar manner to previously observed psychotomimetic agents, such as phencyclidine, underlining the molecular basis to its link in schizophrenia pathophysiology. Kynurenic acid is a breakdown product of tryptophan degradation, through a transamination process mediated by kynurenine aminotransferase (KAT) enzymes. There are four KAT homologues reported, all of which are pyridoxal 5'- phosphate-dependent enzymes. All four KAT isoforms have been analysed structurally and biochemically, however the most extensive research is on KAT-I and KAT-II. These two enzymes have been targeted in structure-based drug design as a means of normalising raised kynurenic acid levels. The most potent KAT-I inhibitors and KAT-II inhibitors include phenylhydrazone hexanoic acid derivatives and a pyrazole series of compounds, respectively. KAT inhibitors have been shown to be effective in reducing kynurenic acid production, with accompanying changes in neurotransmitter release and pro-cognitive effects seen in animal studies. This review will discuss the characteristics pertaining to the different KAT isoforms, and will highlight the development of significant KAT inhibitors. KAT inhibitors have great potential for therapeutic application and represent a novel way in treating schizophrenia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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