3-Hydroxykynurenine and clinical symptoms in first-episode neuroleptic-naive patients with schizophrenia

Ruth Condray, George G. Dougherty, Matcheri S. Keshavan, Ravinder D. Reddy, Gretchen L. Haas, Debra M. Montrose, Wayne R. Matson, Joseph Patrick McEvoy, Rima Kaddurah-Daouk, Jeffrey K. Yao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


One branch of the tryptophan catabolic cascade is the kynurenine pathway, which produces neurotoxic [3-hydroxykynurenine (3-OHKY), quinolinic acid] and neuroinhibitory (kynurenic acid) compounds. Kynurenic acid acts as a competitive antagonist at the glycine site of N-methyl-d-asparate receptors at high concentrations and as a non-competitive antagonist on the α7- nicotinic acetylcholine receptor at low concentrations. Kynurenine compounds also influence cognitive functions known to be disrupted in schizophrenia. Alterations in tryptophan metabolism are therefore of potential significance for the pathophysiology of this disorder. In this paper, tryptophan metabolites were measured from plasma using high-pressure liquid chromatography coupled with electrochemical coulometric array detection, and relationships were tested between these metabolic signatures and clinical symptoms for 25 first-episode neuroleptic-naive schizophrenia patients. Blood samples were collected and clinical and neurological symptoms were rated at baseline and again at 4 wk following initiation of treatment. Level of 3-OHKY and total clinical symptom scores were correlated when patients were unmedicated and neuroleptic-naive, and this relationship differed significantly from the correlation observed for patients 4 wk after beginning treatment. Baseline psychosis symptoms were predicted only by neurological symptoms. Moreover, baseline 3-OHKY predicted clinical change at 4 wk, with the lowest concentrations of 3-OHKY being associated with the greatest improvement in symptoms. Taken together, our findings suggest a neurotoxic product of tryptophan metabolism, 3-OHKY, predicts severity of clinical symptoms during the early phase of illness and before exposure to antipsychotic drugs. Baseline level of 3-OHKY may also predict the degree of clinical improvement following brief treatment with antipsychotics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)756-767
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • 3-hydroxykynurenine
  • Cognition
  • first-episode psychosis
  • neuroleptic-naive
  • neurological symptoms
  • schizophrenia
  • tryptophan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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