Pocivavsek: 0000-0002-3817-3201

O'Reilly: 0000-0002-3149-4934

Document Type


Subject Area(s)

sleep; kynurenine


Patients with neurocognitive disorders often battle sleep disturbances. Kynurenic acid is a tryptophan metabolite of the kynurenine pathway implicated in the pathology of these illnesses. Modest increases in kynurenic acid, an antagonist at glutamatergic and cholinergic receptors, result in cognitive impairments and sleep dysfunction. We explored the hypothesis that inhibition of the kynurenic acid synthesising enzyme, kynurenine aminotransferase II, may alleviate sleep disturbances. At the start of the light phase, adult male and female Wistar rats received systemic injections of either: (i) vehicle; (ii) kynurenine (100 mg kg−1; i.p.); (iii) the kynurenine aminotransferase II inhibitor, PF-04859989 (30 mg kg−1; s.c.); or (iv) PF-04859989 and kynurenine in combination. Kynurenine and kynurenic acid levels were evaluated in the plasma and brain. Separate animals were implanted with electroencephalogram and electromyogram telemetry devices to record polysomnography, and evaluate the vigilance states wake, rapid eye movement sleep and non-rapid eye movement sleep following each treatment. Kynurenine challenge increased brain kynurenic acid and resulted in reduced rapid eye movement sleep duration, non-rapid eye movement sleep delta power and sleep spindles. PF-04859989 reduced brain kynurenic acid formation when given prior to kynurenine, prevented disturbances in rapid eye movement sleep and sleep spindles, and enhanced non-rapid eye movement sleep. Our findings suggest that reducing kynurenic acid in conditions where the kynurenine pathway is activated may serve as a potential strategy for improving sleep dynamics.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

APA Citation

Rentschler, K. M., Milosavljevic, S., Baratta, A. M., Wright, C. J., Piroli, M. V., Tentor, Z., Valafar, H., O'Reilly, C., & Pocivavsek, A. (2023). Reducing brain kynurenic acid synthesis precludes kynurenine-induced sleep disturbances. Journal of Sleep Research, e14038.