The kynurenine pathway in major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia: a meta-analysis of 101 studies

Journal: Molecular Psychiatry

Published: 2020-11-23

DOI: 10.1038/s41380-020-00951-9

Affiliations: 17

Authors: 21

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Research Highlight

Metabolism and the brain

© Thananit Suntiviriyanon/EyeEm/Getty

© Thananit Suntiviriyanon/EyeEm/Getty

How people with psychiatric disorders breakdown an essential dietary amino acid into neuroactive by-products differs according to the nature of their condition. This finding could inform future therapeutic strategies directed at modulating this metabolic pathway.

A team co-led by Deakin University scientists pooled data from 101 studies that collectively tested the blood of nearly 11,000 people for metabolites involved in the breakdown of tryptophan. An amino acid found in food, tryptophan is used by the brain to make serotonin, the happy hormone, but it also forms of the basis of other compounds produced via the kynurenine pathway.

The researchers found that people with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia all showed a shift in tryptophan metabolism from serotonin to the kynurenine pathway. Yet only those with mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder) also produced more of a neurotoxic metabolite instead of an alternative neuroprotective one.

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  1. Molecular Psychiatry (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41380-020-00951-9
Institutions Share
McGovern Medical School, UTHealth, United States of America (USA) 0.24
Centre for Innovation in Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Treatment (IMPACT), Deakin University, Australia 0.23
Barwon Health, Australia 0.23
National Sun Yat-Sen University (NSYSU), Taiwan 0.05
Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang Gung Medical Foundation, Taiwan 0.05
August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), Spain 0.02
Biomedical Research Networking Center for Mental Health Network (CIBERSAM), Spain 0.02
College of Medicine and Health, UCC, Ireland 0.02
APC Microbiome Institute, UCC, Ireland 0.02
Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IOPPN), KCL, United Kingdom (UK) 0.02
South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), United Kingdom (UK) 0.02
Department of Psychiatry, U of T, Canada 0.02
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), U of T, Canada 0.02
University of Eastern Finland (UEF), Finland 0.01
Kuopio University Hospital (KUH), Finland 0.01