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J Neurochem. 2015 Oct;135(2):210-25. doi: 10.1111/jnc.13204. Epub 2015 Aug 3.

Time and space profiling of NMDA receptor co-agonist functions.

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Team 'Gliotransmission and Synaptopathies', Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, CRN2M UMR7286, Marseille, France.
Center of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, University Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris City, UMR 894, Paris, France.


The N-Methyl D-Aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors (NMDAR) are key tetrameric ionotropic glutamate receptors that transduce glutamatergic signals throughout the central nervous system (CNS) and spinal cord. Although NMDARs are diverse in their subunit composition, subcellular localization, and biophysical and pharmacological properties, their activation always requires the binding of a co-agonist that has long been thought to be glycine. However, intense research over the last decade has challenged this classical model by showing that another amino acid, d-serine, is the preferential co-agonist for a subset of synaptic NMDARs in many areas of the adult brain. Nowadays, a totally new picture of glutamatergic synapses at work is emerging where both glycine and d-serine are involved in a complex interplay to regulate NMDAR functions in the CNS following time and space constraints. The purpose of this review was to highlight the particular role of each co-agonist in modulating NMDAR-dependent activities in healthy and diseased brains. We have herein integrated our most advanced knowledge of how glycine and d-serine may orchestrate synapse dynamics and drive neuronal network activity in a time- and synapse-specific manner and how changes in synaptic availability of these amino acids may contribute to cognitive impairments such as those associated with healthy aging, epilepsy, and schizophrenia. The N-Methyl D-Aspartic acid (NMDA) subtype of glutamate receptors are central to many physiological functions and are linked to brain disorders. Their functions require glutamate and a co-agonist d-serine or glycine. After years of intense research and controversy on the identity of the amino acid that serves as the right co-agonist, we are just entering a new era of consensus where glycine and d-serine are teaming up to regulate the function of different subsets of NMDA receptors and at different synapses during different time windows of brain development.


NMDA receptors; astrocytes; d-serine; development; glycine; synapse

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