The Journal of biological chemistry

Targeted deletion of kynurenine 3-monooxygenase in mice: a new tool for studying kynurenine pathway metabolism in periphery and brain.

PMID 24189070


Kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO), a pivotal enzyme in the kynurenine pathway (KP) of tryptophan degradation, has been suggested to play a major role in physiological and pathological events involving bioactive KP metabolites. To explore this role in greater detail, we generated mice with a targeted genetic disruption of Kmo and present here the first biochemical and neurochemical characterization of these mutant animals. Kmo(-/-) mice lacked KMO activity but showed no obvious abnormalities in the activity of four additional KP enzymes tested. As expected, Kmo(-/-) mice showed substantial reductions in the levels of its enzymatic product, 3-hydroxykynurenine, in liver, brain, and plasma. Compared with wild-type animals, the levels of the downstream metabolite quinolinic acid were also greatly decreased in liver and plasma of the mutant mice but surprisingly were only slightly reduced (by ∼20%) in the brain. The levels of three other KP metabolites: kynurenine, kynurenic acid, and anthranilic acid, were substantially, but differentially, elevated in the liver, brain, and plasma of Kmo(-/-) mice, whereas the liver and brain content of the major end product of the enzymatic cascade, NAD(+), did not differ between Kmo(-/-) and wild-type animals. When assessed by in vivo microdialysis, extracellular kynurenic acid levels were found to be significantly elevated in the brains of Kmo(-/-) mice. Taken together, these results provide further evidence that KMO plays a key regulatory role in the KP and indicate that Kmo(-/-) mice will be useful for studying tissue-specific functions of individual KP metabolites in health and disease.