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Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:312-5.

An essential role for de novo biosynthesis of L-serine in CNS development.

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Laboratory of Metabolic Regulation Research, Kyushu University Bio-Architecture Center, #315, The 3rd Building of School of Engineering, Hakozaki, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka 812-8581, Japan.


L-serine plays a versatile role in intermediary metabolism in eukaryotic cells. The physiological significance of its de novo biosynthesis, however, remains largely unexplored. We demonstrated previously that neurons lose the ability to synthesize L-serine after their final differentiation and thus depend on astrocytes to supply this amino acid. This is due to a lack of neuronal expression of 3-phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (Phgdh), which initiates de novo L-serine synthesis via the phosphorylated pathway from the glycolytic intermediate 3-phosphoglycerate. In rodent brain, Phgdh is expressed exclusively by the neuroepithelium/radial glia/astrocyte lineage. In humans, serine deficiency disorders can result from a deficiency of Phgdh or other enzymes involved in serine biosynthesis in the phosphorylated pathway. Patients with such disorders have lower serine levels in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid; they exhibit severe neurological symptoms including congenital microcephaly, feeding disabilities, and psychomotor retardation. L-serine supplementation can attenuate developmental defects in these patients. To define the physiological importance of de novo L-serine production, we generated Phgdh knockout mice using targeted gene disruption technique. Phgdh deletion drastically reduced serine and glycine levels in the body. Phgdh knockout mice exhibited overall growth retardation with severe brain malformation, culminating in embryonic lethality. These observations highlight the vital role of de novo L-serine synthesis in the formation and function of the mammalian central nervous system. Furthermore, the embryonic lethal phenotype of Phgdh knockouts indicates that L-serine must be synthesized endogenously in mouse (and probably humans) during embryonic development.

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