L-Tryptophan (TRP) is metabolized via serotonin and kynurenine pathways (KP). Several studies have demonstrated that abnormality of both pathways is involved in the pathogenesis of major depressive disorder (MDD). Kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO), a pivotal enzyme in the KP, has been suggested to play major roles in physiological and pathological events mediated by bioactive kynurenine metabolites. In this study, we investigated the role of KMO in the emotional and cognitive functions by using KMO knockout (KO) mice. We measured contents of TRP and monoamines and their metabolites in the serum and hippocampus of KMO KO mice. Further, we investigated whether antidepressants improved the depressive-like behaviors in KMO KO mice. KMO KO mice showed depressive-like behaviors such as decreased sucrose preference and increased immobility in the forced swimming test and high anxiety by decreased time spent in the center area of open field. But, there was no difference in spontaneous alternation in Y-maze test, counts of rearing or locomotor activity. Higher contents of TRP metabolites such as kynurenine (KYN), kynurenic acid (KA), anthranilic acid (AA), and 3-hydroxykynurenine (3-HK) in the serum and hippocampus and decreased serotonin turnover and higher content of normetanephrine (NM) in the hippocampus were observed in the KMO KO mice. Although both antidepressant attenuated increase of immobility, sertraline but not imipramine improved decrease of sucrose preference in the KMO KO mice. These findings suggested that KMO KO mice show antidepressants-responsive depressive-like behaviors and monoaminergic dysfunctions via abnormality of kynurenine metabolism with good validities as MDD model.
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