Kynurenic acid has a dual action on AMPA receptor responses

Christina Prescott, Autumn M. Weeks, Kevin J. Staley, Kathryn M. Partin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Glutamate is the predominant excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The receptors that bind glutamate, including N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) and α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA) receptor subtypes, are strongly implicated in higher cognitive processes, especially learning and memory. Loss of glutamate receptor function impairs the ability to acquire and retain information in some patients subsequent to stroke or brain injury, and positive allosteric modulators of glutamate receptors can restore learning and memory in some of these patients. Here we demonstrate that kynurenic acid (KYNA), an endogenous tryptophan metabolite, acts upon heterologous AMPA receptors via two distinct mechanisms. Low (nanomolar to micromolar) concentrations of KYNA facilitate AMPA receptor responses, whereas high (millimolar) concentrations of KYNA competitively antagonize glutamate receptors. Low concentrations of KYNA appear to increase current responses through allosteric modulation of desensitization of AMPA receptors. These findings suggest the possibility that low concentrations of endogenous KYNA acting at AMPA receptors may be a positive modulator of excitatory synaptic transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)108-112
Number of pages5
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 10 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Allosteric modulation
  • Desensitization
  • Electrophysiology
  • Glutamate receptor
  • Pharmacology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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