Kynurenines in the mammalian brain: when physiology meets pathology

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2012 Jul;13(7):465-77. doi: 10.1038/nrn3257.


The essential amino acid tryptophan is not only a precursor of serotonin but is also degraded to several other neuroactive compounds, including kynurenic acid, 3-hydroxykynurenine and quinolinic acid. The synthesis of these metabolites is regulated by an enzymatic cascade, known as the kynurenine pathway, that is tightly controlled by the immune system. Dysregulation of this pathway, resulting in hyper-or hypofunction of active metabolites, is associated with neurodegenerative and other neurological disorders, as well as with psychiatric diseases such as depression and schizophrenia. With recently developed pharmacological agents, it is now possible to restore metabolic equilibrium and envisage novel therapeutic interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Kynurenine / metabolism*
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Nervous System Diseases / pathology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Kynurenine