Quinolinic acid links kidney injury to brain toxicity

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 May 10:2024.05.07.592801. doi: 10.1101/2024.05.07.592801.


Kidney dysfunction often leads to neurological impairment, yet the complex kidney-brain relationship remains elusive. We employed spatial and bulk metabolomics to investigate a mouse model of rapid kidney failure induced by mouse double minute 2 ( Mdm2) conditional deletion in the kidney tubules to interrogate kidney and brain metabolism. Pathway enrichment analysis of focused plasma metabolomics panel pinpointed tryptophan metabolism as the most altered pathway with kidney failure. Spatial metabolomics showed toxic tryptophan metabolites in the kidneys and brains, revealing a novel connection between advanced kidney disease and accelerated kynurenine degradation. In particular, the excitotoxic metabolite quinolinic acid was localized in ependymal cells adjacent to the ventricle in the setting of kidney failure. These findings were associated with brain inflammation and cell death. A separate mouse model of acute kidney injury also had an increase in circulating toxic tryptophan metabolites along with altered brain inflammation. Patients with advanced CKD similarly demonstrated elevated plasma kynurenine metabolites and quinolinic acid was uniquely correlated with fatigue and reduced quality of life in humans. Overall, our study identifies the kynurenine pathway as a bridge between kidney decline, systemic inflammation, and brain toxicity, offering potential avenues for diagnosis and treatment of neurological issues in kidney disease.

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