News of the WeekNeurobiology

Key Brain Receptor Gets an Unusual Regulator

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Science  12 Nov 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5443, pp. 1265-1266
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5443.1265a

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Summary

Neuroscientists have unearthed a strange new regulator of nerve cells--a looking-glass molecule not previously known to be made by higher mammals. In the 9 November Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers report that they have cloned a brain enzyme that makes the amino acid D-serine, rounding out their case that this unusual molecule plays a central role in learning and memory as a coactivator of the so-called NMDA receptor--a job previously thought to be performed by another amino acid, glycine. They also traced the enzyme to the same cell type, astrocytes, and the same brain areas where D-serine is found. The newly cloned enzyme, called serine racemase, provides a novel target for drugs to treat a range of neurological conditions in which NMDA receptor malfunction plays a role.