Fluids of the human body such as serum, cerebrospinal fluid and saliva contain a wide variety of proteins. Because kynurenic acid (KYNA) has been detected in human saliva, we wondered if KYNA could be produced in saliva by KYNA-synthesising enzymes, namely the kynurenine aminotransferases KAT I, KAT II and KAT III. Thirty samples of human saliva from control volunteers were investigated. KAT activity was measured in the presence of 1 mM pyruvate and 2 µM or 100 µM L-kynurenine and KYNA production was assessed by high-performance liquid chromatography. Saliva dose- and time-dependently produced KYNA. KAT activity ranged between 900 and 1050 pmol/mg protein/h: 900 for KAT I, 950 for KAT III and 1050 for KAT II. KYNA was synthesised in saliva at a physiological concentration of 2 µM L-kynurenine and at a higher concentration of 100 µM. Investigation of the distributions of the enzymes in saliva revealed that KAT I, KAT II and KAT III activity in a centrifuge-obtained pellet ranged from ~100% to 120%; in the supernatant, the percentage was between 0% and 20%. We observed a nonsignificant tendency for lower KAT activity in women's saliva than in men's. KATs present in saliva were sensitive to the GABA-transaminase inhibitor γ-acetylenic GABA, with a concentration of 100 µM γ-acetylenic GABA significantly blocking the formation of KYNA (50% of control, p < 0.05). Furthermore, KATs in saliva were sensitive to anti-dementia drugs, such as D-cycloserine and cerebrolysin, in an in vitro study. Our data revealed for the first time the presence of KAT I, KAT II and KAT III proteins in human saliva. KAT activity was found mostly in pelleted cells, suggesting their presence in salivary gland cells. KAT proteins in saliva are sensitive to drugs blocking KYNA formation. Our data indicate the presence of cells in saliva involved in the biochemical machinery of the kynurenine pathway. Their role in the digestive process remains to be clarified. We speculate that modulation of KYNA formation in the mouth by food and/or drugs might affect glutamate neurotransmission and cholinergic activity in the CNS and/or periphery and play a role under physiological as well as pathological conditions.

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