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Concept: Proteinogenic amino acid


N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are glutamate- and glycine-gated channels composed of two GluN1 and two GluN2 or/and GluN3 subunits. GluN3A expression is developmentally regulated, and changes in this normal pattern of expression, which occur in several brain disorders, alter synaptic maturation and function by unknown mechanisms. Uniquely within the NMDA receptor family, GluN1/GluN3 receptors produce glycine-gated deeply desensitising currents that are insensitive to glutamate and NMDA; these currents remain poorly characterised and their cellular functions are unknown. Here, we show that extracellular acidification strongly potentiated glycine-gated currents from recombinant GluN1/GluN3A receptors, with half-maximal effect in the physiologic pH range. This was largely due to slower current desensitisation and faster current recovery from desensitisation, and was mediated by residues facing the heterodimer interface of the ligand-binding domain. Consistent with the observed changes in desensitisation kinetics, acidic shifts increased the GluN1/GluN3A equilibrium current and depolarized the membrane in a glycine concentration-dependent manner. These results reveal novel modulatory mechanisms for GluN1/GluN3A receptors that further differentiate them from the canonical glutamatergic GluN1/GluN2 receptors and provide a new and potent pharmacologic tool to assist the detection, identification, and the further study of GluN1/GluN3A currents in native preparations.

Concepts: Amino acid, Hormone, Cell signaling, Proteinogenic amino acid, PH, NMDA receptor, Glutamic acid, Excitotoxicity


This study evaluated the interference of the amino acids tryptophan, cysteine, histidine, tyrosine, hydroxyproline, leucine, proline, serine, glycine, valine, glutamic acid, phenylalanine, and methionine on the measurement of reducing sugars using a phenol-free 3,5-dinitrosalicylic acid (DNS) reagent. It was found that in reaction mixtures containing 20mM of either tryptophan, cysteine, histidine, tyrosine, or hydroxyproline the measurement of 3.7mM glucose was overestimated by 76%, 50%, 35%, 18%, and 10%, respectively. The amino acids valine, glutamic acid, and phenylalanine did not affect the DNS reaction, while methionine decreased the color development by 5%. The measurement of glucose, xylose, arabinose, and cellobiose at the 3.7-12.4mM range in the presence of 20mM cysteine resulted in an overestimated concentration of 34.8-50%. Enzymatic assays for measuring xylanolytic and filter paper activity (FPAse) were conducted in the presence of 20-60mM cysteine, and compared to cysteine-free assays. In the presence of cysteine, the measured xylanase activity increased threefold and the FPAse activity increased twofold due to the overestimation of the reducing sugar concentrations in the assays. The interference from cysteine was reduced to a maximum of 8.6% when a DNS reagent containing phenol was used.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Enzyme, Measurement, Proteinogenic amino acid, Essential amino acid, Proteinogenic amino acids, Glucogenic amino acids


The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) is crucial for pain-related behaviors. D-Serine is synthesized from L-serine by serine racemase (SR) and modulates NMDAR functions by acting as an agonist at the glycine-binding site. We analyzed noxious stimulus-induced ultrasonic vocalization and locomotor activity in the open-field test using SR knockout (SR-KO) mice to examine the role of endogenous D-serine in mammalian behaviors. SR-KO mice emitted less ultrasonic vocalization after noxious stimulation (VAS) than wild-type (WT) mice. The locomotor activity of WT mice decreased with repeated daily exposures to the open field, whereas that of SR-KO mice remained unchanged. VAS was significantly enhanced during arthritis in WT mice, whereas it was not enhanced during arthritis in SR-KO mice. These results indicate that mice lacking the ability to produce D-serine endogenously in the brain differ from normal mice with respect to the chronic pain-induced behavioral changes.

Concepts: Psychology, Proteinogenic amino acid, Serine protease, NMDA receptor, Human behavior, Serine, Glycine, Serine racemase


The N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) coagonists glycine, d-serine and l-proline play crucial roles in NMDAR-dependent neurotransmission and are associated with a range of neuropsychiatric disorders. We conducted the first genome-wide association study of concentrations of these coagonists and their enantiomers in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of human subjects from the general population (N=414). Genetic variants at chromosome 22q11.2, located in and near PRODH (proline dehydrogenase), were associated with l-proline in plasma (β=0.29; P=6.38 × 10(-10)). The missense variant rs17279437 in the proline transporter SLC6A20 was associated with l-proline in CSF (β=0.28; P=9.68 × 10(-9)). Suggestive evidence of association was found for the d-serine plasma-CSF ratio at the d-amino-acid oxidase (DAO) gene (β=-0.28; P=9.08 × 10(-8)), whereas a variant in SRR (that encodes serine racemase and is associated with schizophrenia) constituted the most strongly associated locus for the l-serine to d-serine ratio in CSF. All these genes are highly expressed in rodent meninges and choroid plexus, anatomical regions relevant to CSF physiology. The enzymes and transporters they encode may be targeted to further construe the nature of NMDAR coagonist involvement in NMDAR gating. Furthermore, the highlighted genetic variants may be followed up in clinical populations, for example, schizophrenia and 22q11 deletion syndrome. Overall, this targeted metabolomics approach furthers the understanding of NMDAR coagonist concentration variability and sets the stage for non-targeted CSF metabolomics projects.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 10 February 2015; doi:10.1038/mp.2014.190.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Proteinogenic amino acid, NMDA receptor, Cerebrospinal fluid, Serine, Glycine, Serine racemase


Energy minima of the 20 natural amino acids (capped by a peptide bond at both the N- and C -termini, CH3-C(=O)-N(H)-(H)Cα®-C(=O)-N(H)-CH3) were obtained by ab initio geometry optimisation. Starting with a large number of minima, quickly generated by MarvinView, geometry optimisation at the HF/6-31G(d,p) level of theory reduced the number of minima, followed by further optimisation at the B3LYP/apc-1 and MP2/cc-pVDZ levels, which caused some minima to disappear and some stable minima to migrate on the Ramachandran map. There is a relation between the number of minima and the size and the flexibility of the side-chain. The energy minima of the 20 amino acids are mainly located in the regions of βL, γL, δL, and αL of the Ramachandran map. Multipole moments of atoms occurring in the fragment [-NH-Cα-C(=O)-] common to all 20 amino acids were calculated at the three levels of theory mentioned above. The near parallelism in behaviour of these moments between levels of theory is beneficial towards estimating moments with the more expensive B3LYP and MP2 methods, from data calculated with the cheaper HF method. Finally, we explored the transferability of properties between different amino acids: the bond length and angles of the common fragment [-NH-Cα(HαCβ)-C'(=O)-] in all amino acids except Gly and Pro. All bond lengths are highly transferable between different amino acids and the standard deviations are small.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Mathematics, Peptide bond, Proteinogenic amino acid, Length, Glycine, Proline


Dietary intakes of glutamic acid and glycine have been reported to be associated with blood pressure. However, the link between intakes of these amino acids and stroke has not been studied.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Acid, Amine, Ammonia, Proteinogenic amino acid, PH, Glutamic acid


Recently, it has been found that the gut microbiota influences functions of the host brain by affecting monoamine metabolism. The present study focused on the relationship between the gut microbiota and the brain amino acids. Specific pathogen-free (SPF) and germ-free (GF) mice were used as experimental models. Plasma and brain regions were sampled from mice at 7 and 16 weeks of age, and analysed for free d- and l-amino acids, which are believed to affect many physiological functions. At 7 weeks of age, plasma concentrations of d-aspartic acid (d-Asp), l-alanine (l-Ala), l-glutamine (l-Gln) and taurine were higher in SPF mice than in GF mice, but no differences were found at 16 weeks of age. Similar patterns were observed for the concentrations of l-Asp in striatum, cerebral cortex and hippocampus, and l-arginine (l-Arg), l-Ala and l-valine (l-Val) in striatum. In addition, the concentrations of l-Asp, d-Ala, l-histidine, l-isoleucine (l-Ile), l-leucine (l-Leu), l-phenylalanine and l-Val were significantly higher in plasma of SPF mice when compared with those of GF mice. The concentrations of l-Arg, l-Gln, l-Ile and l-Leu were significantly higher in SPF than in GF mice, but those of d-Asp, d-serine and l-serine were higher in some brain regions of GF mice than in those of SPF mice. In conclusion, the concentration of amino acids in the host brain seems to be dependent on presence of the gut microbiota. Amino acid metabolism in the host brain may be modified by manipulating microbiota communities.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Amine, Ammonia, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Proteinogenic amino acid, Essential amino acid


d-Serine modulates N-methyl d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) and regulates synaptic plasticity, neurodevelopment, and learning and memory. However, the primary site of d-serine synthesis and release remains controversial, with some arguing that it is a gliotransmitter and others defining it as a neuronal cotransmitter. Results from several laboratories using different strategies now show that the biosynthetic enzyme of d-serine, serine racemase (SR), is expressed almost entirely by neurons, with few astrocytes appearing to contain d-serine. Cell-selective suppression of SR expression demonstrates that neuronal, rather than astrocytic d-serine, modulates synaptic plasticity. Here, we propose an alternative conceptualization whereby astrocytes affect d-serine levels by synthesizing l-serine that shuttles to neurons to fuel the neuronal synthesis of d-serine.

Concepts: Nervous system, Signal transduction, Proteinogenic amino acid, Serine protease, Gap junction, Glycosylation, Serine, Serine racemase


Cd hyperaccumulator Solanum nigrum L. was a promissing plant used to simultaneously remediate Cd-PAHs combined pollution soil through its extra accumulation capacity and rhizosphere degradation. This article compared the strengthening remediation role of cysteine (Cys), glycine (Gly) and glutamic acid (Glu) with EDTA and TW80. The results showed that the addition of 0.03 mmol L(-1) Cys, Gly and Glu didn’t significantly impact (p<0.05) shoot biomass of S. nigrum, but obviously increased Cd concentration. Therefore, Cd capacity (µg pot(-1)) in shoots of S. nigrum was significantly increased (p<0.05) by 37.7% compared to the control without reagent added. At the meantime, the PAHs degradation ratio in rhizoshpere was increased by 34.5%. Basically, the improving role of Cys, Gly and Glu was higher than EDTA and TW80. The main reasons of enhanced the accumulation of S. nigrum to Cd might lie in the addition of Cys, Gly and Glu which reduced pH and increased extractable Cd concentration in rhizosphere and phytochelatines (PCs) concentration in leaves. As for the degradation of PAHs in rhizosphere, increased microorganism number might be play important role.

Concepts: Amino acid, Acid, Proteinogenic amino acid, Environmental remediation, Glutamic acid, Solanum nigrum


Citrate-modified silver nanoparticles (AgNP-cit) have received extensive attention due to their excellent antimicrobial properties. However, these particles tend to migrate in vivo, thereby entering the blood circulatory system in granular form and accumulating in the liver, causing toxic reactions. However, the mechanism underlying AgNP-cit toxicity is not yet clear. Thus, we adopted a tandem mass tag (TMT)-labeled quantitative proteomics and metabolomics approach to identify proteins and small molecule metabolites associated with AgNP-cit-induced liver damage and constructed interaction networks between the differentially expressed proteins and metabolites to explain the AgNP-cit toxicity mechanism. AgNP-cit resulted in abnormal purine metabolism mainly by affecting xanthine and other key metabolites along with pyruvate kinase and other bodily proteins, leading to oxidative stress. AgNP-cit regulated the metabolism of amino acids and glycerol phospholipids through glycerol phospholipids, CYP450 enzymes and other key proteins, causing liver inflammation. Via alanine, isoleucine, L-serine dehydratase/L-threonine deaminase and other proteins, AgNP-cit altered the metabolism of glycine, serine and threonine, cysteine and methionine, affecting oxidation and deamination, and ultimately leading to liver damage. This work clearly explains toxic reactions induced by AgNP-cit from three perspectives, oxidative stress, inflammatory response, and oxidation and deamination, thus providing an experimental basis for the safe application of nanomaterials.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Proteinogenic amino acid, Essential amino acid, Toxicology