Decreased free d-aspartate levels are linked to enhanced d-aspartate oxidase activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of schizophrenia patients

Tommaso Nuzzo, Silvia Sacchi, Francesco Errico, Simona Keller, Orazio Palumbo, Ermanno Florio, Daniela Punzo, Francesco Napolitano, Massimiliano Copetti, Massimo Carella, Lorenzo Chiariotti, Alessandro Bertolino, Loredano Pollegioni, Alessandro Usiello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is long acknowledged that theN-methyl d-aspartate receptor co-agonist, d-serine, plays a crucial role in severalN-methyl d-aspartate receptor-mediated physiological and pathological processes, including schizophrenia. Besides d-serine, another free d-amino acid, d-aspartate, is involved in the activation ofN-methyl d-aspartate receptors acting as an agonist of this receptor subclass, and is abundantly detected in the developing human brain. Based on the hypothesis ofN-methyl d-aspartate receptor hypofunction in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and considering the ability of d-aspartate and d-serine to stimulateN-methyl d-aspartate receptor-dependent transmission, in the present work we assessed the concentration of these two d-amino acids in thepost-mortemdorsolateral prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of patients with schizophrenia and healthy subjects. Moreover, in this cohort ofpost-mortembrain samples we investigated the spatiotemporal variations of d-aspartate and d-serine. Consistent with previous work, we found that d-aspartate content was selectively decreased by around 30% in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, but not in the hippocampus, of schizophrenia-affected patients, compared to healthy subjects. Interestingly, such selective reduction was associated to greater (around 25%) cortical activity of the enzyme responsible for d-aspartate catabolism, d-aspartate oxidase. Conversely, no significant changes were found in the methylation state and transcription ofDDOgene in patients with schizophrenia, compared to control individuals, as well as in the expression levels of serine racemase, the major enzyme responsible for d-serine biosynthesis, which also catalyzes aspartate racemization. These results reveal the potential involvement of altered d-aspartate metabolism in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex as a factor contributing to dysfunctionalN-methyl d-aspartate receptor-mediated transmission in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16
Journalnpj Schizophrenia
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Decreased free d-aspartate levels are linked to enhanced d-aspartate oxidase activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of schizophrenia patients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this