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J Neurosci January 1, 2017; 37 (26): 6277-6288.
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The Gliotransmitter d-Serine Promotes Synapse Maturation and Axonal Stabilization In Vivo.

Van Horn MR , Strasser A , Miraucourt LS , Pollegioni L , Ruthazer ES .

The NMDAR is thought to play a key role in the refinement of connectivity in developing neural circuits. Pharmacological blockade or genetic loss-of-function manipulations that prevent NMDAR function during development result in the disorganization of topographic axonal projections. However, because NMDARs contribute to overall glutamatergic neurotransmission, such loss-of-function experiments fail to adequately distinguish between the roles played by NMDARs and neural activity in general. The gliotransmitter d-serine is a coagonist of the NMDAR that is required for NMDAR channel opening, but which cannot mediate neurotransmission on its own. Here we demonstrate that acute administration of d-serine has no immediate effect on glutamate release or AMPA-mediated neurotransmission. We show that endogenous d-serine is normally present below saturating levels in the developing visual system of the Xenopus tadpole. Using an amperometric enzymatic biosensor, we demonstrate that glutamatergic activation elevates ambient endogenous d-serine levels in the optic tectum. Chronically elevating levels of d-serine promoted synaptic maturation and resulted in the hyperstabilization of developing axon branches in the tadpole visual system. Conversely, treatment with an enzyme that degrades endogenous d-serine resulted in impaired synaptic maturation. Despite the reduction in axon arbor complexity seen in d-serine-treated animals, tectal neuron visual receptive fields were expanded, suggesting a failure to prune divergent retinal inputs. Together, these findings positively implicate NMDAR-mediated neurotransmission in developmental synapse maturation and the stabilization of axonal inputs and reveal a potential role for d-serine as an endogenous modulator of circuit refinement.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Activation of NMDARs is critical for the activity-dependent development and maintenance of highly organized topographic maps. d-Serine, a coagonist of the NMDAR, plays a significant role in modulating NMDAR-mediated synaptic transmission and plasticity in many brain areas. However, it remains unknown whether d-serine participates in the establishment of precise neuronal connections during development. Using an in vivo model, we show that glutamate receptor activation can evoke endogenous d-serine release, which promotes glutamatergic synapse maturation and stabilizes axonal structural and functional inputs. These results reveal a pivotal modulatory role for d-serine in neurodevelopment.

PubMed ID: 28550169
PMC ID: PMC6705694
Article link: J Neurosci

Species referenced: Xenopus laevis
Genes referenced: grap2 prune1
GO keywords: NMDA glutamate receptor activity [+]

Article Images: [+] show captions
References [+] :
Aizenman, Enhanced visual activity in vivo forms nascent synapses in the developing retinotectal projection. 2007, Pubmed, Xenbase