Astroglial d-serine is the endogenous co-agonist at the presynaptic NMDA receptor in rat entorhinal cortex

Alex M. Lench, P.V. Massey, Loredano Pollegioni, Gavin L. Woodhall, Roland S.G. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Presynaptic NMDA receptors facilitate the release of glutamate at excitatory cortical synapses and are involved in regulation of synaptic dynamics and plasticity. At synapses in the entorhinal cortex these receptors are tonically activated and provide a positive feedback modulation of the level of background excitation. NMDA receptor activation requires obligatory occupation of a co-agonist binding site, and in the present investigation we have examined whether this site on the presynaptic receptor is activated by endogenous glycine or d-serine. We used whole-cell patch clamp recordings of spontaneous AMPA receptor-mediated synaptic currents from rat entorhinal cortex neurones in vitro as a monitor of presynaptic glutamate release. Addition of exogenous glycine or d-serine had minimal effects on spontaneous release, suggesting that the co-agonist site was endogenously activated and likely to be saturated in our slices. This was supported by the observation that a co-agonist site antagonist reduced the frequency of spontaneous currents. Depletion of endogenous glycine by enzymatic breakdown with a bacterial glycine oxidase had little effect on glutamate release, whereas d-serine depletion with a yeast d-amino acid oxidase significantly reduced glutamate release, suggesting that d-serine is the endogenous agonist. Finally, the effects of d-serine depletion were mimicked by compromising astroglial cell function, and this was rescued by exogenous d-serine, indicating that astroglial cells are the provider of the d-serine that tonically activates the presynaptic NMDA receptor. We discuss the significance of these observations for the aetiology of epilepsy and possible targeting of the presynaptic NMDA receptor in anticonvulsant therapy. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-127
Number of pages10
Early online date18 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Neuropharmacology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Lench, A. M., Massey, P. V., Pollegioni, L., Woodhall, G. L., & Jones, R. S. G. Astroglial D-serine is the endogenous co-agonist at the presynaptic NMDA receptor in rat entorhinal cortex. Neuropharmacology, Vol. 83, (2014) DOI 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2014.04.004

Funding: MRC for a doctoral training award to support Alex Lench.


  • astroglia
  • d-Serine
  • entorhinal cortex
  • glutamate release
  • glycine
  • presynaptic NMDA receptor


Dive into the research topics of 'Astroglial d-serine is the endogenous co-agonist at the presynaptic NMDA receptor in rat entorhinal cortex'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this