The kynurenine pathway in major depression: What we know and where to next

Publication Name

Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews


Major depression is a serious psychiatric disorder, occurring in up to 20 % of the population. Despite its devastating burden, the neurobiological changes associated with depression are not fully understood. A growing body of evidence suggests the kynurenine pathway is implicated in the pathophysiology of depression. In this review, we bring together the literature examining elements of the kynurenine pathway in depression and explore the implications for the pathophysiology and treatment of depression, while highlighting the gaps in the current knowledge. Current research indicates an increased potential for neurotoxic activity of the kynurenine pathway in peripheral blood samples but an increased activation of the putative neuroprotective arm in some brain regions in depression. The disconnect between these findings requires further investigation, with a greater research effort on elucidating the central effects of the kynurenine pathway in driving depression symptomology. Research investigating the benefits of targeting the kynurenine pathway centred on human brain findings and the heterogenous subtypes of depression will help guide the identification of effective drug targets in depression.

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