Research Topic

Unlock the D-serine Pandora's box

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Amino acids, except glycine can exist in either of two enantiomers, referred as L or D amino acids, which display distinct functional properties. Historically, D-amino acids were thought to be restricted to bacteria. At the beginning of 90’s, several groups reported the presence of D-amino acids in the ...

Amino acids, except glycine can exist in either of two enantiomers, referred as L or D amino acids, which display distinct functional properties. Historically, D-amino acids were thought to be restricted to bacteria. At the beginning of 90’s, several groups reported the presence of D-amino acids in the mammalian brain; especially high levels of D-serine were detected in several areas of mice, rat and human brain. At this point, the function and metabolism of D-serine in the brain were yet completely unknown.

In the late 90’s, two major discoveries modify our scientific view about D-serine. First, it has been demonstrated that this amino acid is an endogenous co-agonist of the NMDA receptor, a major subtype of glutamate receptor involved in functional plasticity of neuronal networks. In the mean time, serine racemase, the enzyme synthesizing D-serine was characterized and found to be enriched in many areas of central and peripheral nervous systems. All those discoveries together unlocked the Pandora box. Since then, the role of D-serine as a key partner for synaptic plasticity has been fully demonstrated, especially in brain regions related to cognitive processes such as the hippocampus and frontal cortex. Accordingly, decreased levels of this D-amino acid closely correlate with deficits in learning and memory during aging. In addition, change in D-serine availability has been associated with several neuronal pathologies like neuropathic pain, lateral amyotrophic sclerosis, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

In this Research Topic, we welcome researchers to submit original research articles or reviews related to D-serine functions in central or peripheral nervous systems. More precisely, the aim of this topic is mainly to address: 1) the mechanisms underlying the role of D-serine in neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity throughout lifespan. 2) Relevant new data regarding the cellular origin of D-serine (astrocyte vs neuron) as this field is still highly controversial. 3) The implication of D-serine in pathological conditions, like schizophrenia, pain or Alzheimer’s disease for example. Studies that focus on animal models (including knock out animals for D-serine metabolic enzymes), human studies and also new technical developments for D-serine detection are also particularly welcomed.


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