Different kynurenine pathway enzymes limit quinolinic acid formation by various human cell types

Melvyn P. Heyes, Cai Y. Chen, Eugene O. Major, Kuniaki Saito

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198 Citations (Scopus)


Substantial increases in the tryptophan-kynurenine pathway metabolites, L-kynurenine and the neurotoxin quinolinic acid, occur in human brain, blood and systemic tissues during immune activation. Studies in vitro have shown that not all human cells are capable of synthesizing quinolinate. To investigate further the mechanisms that limit L-kynurenine and quinolinate production, the activities of kynurenine pathway enzymes and the ability of different human cells to convert pathway intermediates into quinolinate were compared. Stimulation with interferon γ substantially increased indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase activity and L-kynurenine production in primary peripheral blood macrophages and fetal brains (astrocytes and neurons), as well as cell lines derived from macrophage/monocytes (THP-1), U373MG astrocytoma, SKHEP1 liver and lung (MRC-9). High activities of kynurenine 3-hydroxylase, kynureninase or 3-hydroxyanthranilate 3,4-dioxygenase were found in interferon-γ-stimulated macrophages. THP-1 cells and SKHEP1 cells, and these cells made large amounts of quinolinate when supplied with L-tryptophan, L-kynurenine, 3-hydroxykynurenine or 3-hydroxyanthranilate. Quinolinate production by human fetal brain cultures and U373MG cells was restricted by the low activities of kynurenine 3-hydroxylase, kynureninase and 3-hydroxyanthranilate 3,4-dioxygenase, and only small amounts of quinolinate were synthesized when cultures were supplied with L-tryptophan or 3-hydroxyanthranilate. In MRC-9 cells, quinolinate was produced only from 3-hydroxykynurenine and 3-hydroxyanthranilate, consistent with their low kynurenine 3-hydroxylase activity. The results are consistent with the notion that indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase is an important regulatory enzyme in the production of L-kynurenine and quinolinate. Kynurenine 3-hydroxylase and, in some cells, kynureninase and 3-hydroxyanthranilate 3,4-dioxygenase are important determinants of whether a cell can make quinolinate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-356
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01-09-1997
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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