Cinnabarinic acid and xanthurenic acid: Two kynurenine metabolites that interact with metabotropic glutamate receptors

Francesco Fazio, Luana Lionetto, Martina Curto, Luisa Iacovelli, Caroline S. Copeland, Stuart A. Neale, Valeria Bruno, Giuseppe Battaglia, Thomas E. Salt, Ferdinando Nicoletti

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Cinnabarinic and xanthurenic acids are kynurenine metabolites generated by oxidative dimerization of 3-hydroxyanthranilic acid and transamination of 3-hydroxykynurenine, respectively. Recent evidence suggests that both compounds can affect brain function and neurotransmission and interact with metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptors. Cinnabarinic acid behaves as an orthosteric agonist of mGlu4 receptors, whereas some of the in vitro and in vivo effects produced by xanthurenic acid appear to be mediated by the activation of mGlu2 and mGlu3 receptors. Cinnabarinic acid could play an important role in mechanisms of neuroinflammation acting as a linking bridge between the immune system and the CNS. Xanthurenic acid has potential implications in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and is a promising candidate as a peripheral biomarker of the disorder. The action of cinnabarinic acid and xanthurenic acid may extend beyond the regulation of mGlu receptors and may involve several diverse molecular targets, such as the aryl hydrocarbon receptor for cinnabarinic acid and vesicular glutamate transporters for xanthurenic acid. The growing interest on these two metabolites of the kynurenine pathway may unravel new aspects in the complex interaction between tryptophan metabolism and brain function, and lead to the discovery of new potential targets for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled ‘The Kynurenine Pathway in Health and Disease’.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-372
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Cinnabarinic acid
  • Metabotropic glutamate receptors
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Schizophrenia
  • Xanthurenic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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