D-Serine, synthesized in the brain by serine racemase from L-serine (its enantiomer), serves as a neuromodulator by coactivating NMDA receptors, making them able to open if they then also bind glutamate. D-serine is a potent agonist at the glycine site (NR1) of the NMDA-type glutamate receptor (NMDAR). For the receptor to open, glutamate and either glycine or D-serine must bind to it; in addition a pore blocker must not be bound (e.g. Mg2+ or Pb2+).
In fact, D-serine is a more potent agonist at the glycine site on the NMDAR than glycine itself.
D-serine was thought to exist only in bacteria until relatively recently; it was the second D amino acid discovered to naturally exist in humans, present as a signalling molecule in the brain, soon after the discovery of D-aspartate. Had D amino acids been discovered in humans sooner, the glycine site on the NMDA receptor might instead be named the D-serine site.
Apart from central nervous system, D-serine plays a signaling role in peripheral tissues and organs such as cartilage, kidney and corpus cavernosum.
Improved synaptic function in the absence of EphB3 results from attenuation in CCI injury-induced synaptic losses and reduced d-serine levels compared with WT injured mice. Together, these findings suggest that EphB3 signaling plays a deleterious role in synaptic stability and plasticity after TBI 1).
Enhanced astrocytic d-serine underlies synaptic damage after traumatic brain injury 2).