Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have found an explanation for why the level of kynurenic acid (KYNA) is higher in the brains of people with schizophrenia or bipolar disease with psychosis. The study, which is published in the scientific periodical Molecular Psychiatry, identifies a gene variant associated with an increased production of KYNA. The discovery contributes to the further understanding of the link between inflammation and psychosis - and might pave the way for improved therapies.
Kynurenic acid (KYNA) is a substance that affects several signalling pathways in the brain and that is integral to cognitive function. Earlier studies of cerebrospinal fluid have shown that levels of KYNA are elevated in the brains of patients with schizophrenia or bipolar diseases with psychotic features. The reason for this has, however, not been fully understood.
KMO is an enzyme involved in the production of KYNA, and the Karolinska Institutet team has now shown that some individuals have a particular genetic variant of KMO that affects its quantity, resulting in higher levels of KYNA. The study also shows that patients with bipolar disease who carry this gene variant had almost twice the chance of developing psychotic episodes.