Neurotoxic kynurenine metabolism is increased in the dorsal hippocampus and drives distinct depressive behaviors during inflammation

J. M. Parrott, L. Redus, D. Santana-Coelho, J. Morales, X. Gao, J. C. O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


The kynurenine pathway of tryptophan metabolism has an important role in mediating the behavioral effects of inflammation, which has implications in understanding neuropsychiatric comorbidity and for the development of novel therapies. Inhibition of the rate-limiting enzyme, indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), prevents the development of many of these inflammation-induced preclinical behaviors. However, dysregulation in the balance of downstream metabolism, where neuroactive kynurenines are generated, is hypothesized to be a functionally important pathogenic feature of inflammation-induced depression. Here we utilized two novel transgenic mouse strains to directly test the hypothesis that neurotoxic kynurenine metabolism causes depressive-like behavior following peripheral immune activation. Wild-type (WT) or kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO)-deficient (KMO-/-) mice were administered either lipopolysaccharide (LPS, 0.5 mg kg-1) or saline intraperitoneally. Depressive-like behavior was measured across multiple domains 24 h after immune challenge. LPS precipitated a robust depressive-like phenotype, but KMO-/- mice were specifically protected from LPS-induced immobility in the tail suspension test (TST) and reduced spontaneous alternations in the Y-maze. Direct administration of 3-hydroxykynurenine, the metabolic product of KMO, caused a dose-dependent increase in depressive-like behaviors. Mice with targeted deletion of 3-hydroxyanthranilic acid dioxygenase (HAAO), the enzyme that generates quinolinic acid, were similarly challenged with LPS. Similar to KMO-/- mice, LPS failed to increase immobility during the TST. Whereas kynurenine metabolism was generally increased in behaviorally salient brain regions, a distinct shift toward KMO- dependent kynurenine metabolism occurred in the dorsal hippocampus in response to LPS. Together, these results demonstrate that KMO is a pivotal mediator of hippocampal-dependent depressive-like behaviors induced by peripheral LPS challenge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere918
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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