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D-aspartate oxidase (EC (DASOX) (DDO)


New insights on the influence of free d-aspartate metabolism in the mammalian brain during prenatal and postnatal life.

Free d-aspartate is abundant in the mammalian embryonic brain. However, following the postnatal onset of the catabolic d-aspartate oxidase (DDO) activity, cerebral d-aspartate levels drastically decrease, remaining constantly low throughout life. d-Aspartate stimulates both glutamatergic NMDA receptors (NMDARs) and metabotropic Glu5 receptors. In rodents, short-term d-aspartate exposure increases spine density and synaptic plasticity, and improves cognition. Conversely, persistently high d-Asp levels produce NMDAR-dependent neurotoxic effects, leading to precocious neuroinflammation and cell death. These pieces of evidence highlight the dichotomous impact of d-aspartate signaling on NMDAR-dependent processes and, in turn, unveil a neuroprotective role for DDO in preventing the detrimental effects of excessive d-aspartate stimulation during aging. Here, we will focus on the in vivo influence of altered d-aspartate metabolism on the modulation of glutamatergic functions and its involvement in translational studies. Finally, preliminary data on the role of embryonic d-aspartate in the mouse brain will also be reviewed.


  • Brain aging
  • Cell death
  • L-Glutamate
  • NMDA receptors
  • d-Aspartate
  • d-Aspartate oxidase

Free d-aspartate triggers NMDA receptor-dependent cell death in primary cortical neurons and perturbs JNK activation, Tau phosphorylation, and protein SUMOylation in the cerebral cortex of mice lacking d-aspartate oxidase activity.

In mammals, free d-aspartate (D-Asp) is abundant in the embryonic brain, while levels remain very low during adulthood as a result of the postnatal expression and activity of the catabolizing enzyme d-aspartate oxidase (DDO). Previous studies have shown that long-lasting exposure to nonphysiological, higher D-Asp concentrations in Ddo knockout (Ddo ) mice elicits a precocious decay of synaptic plasticity and cognitive functions, along with a dramatic age-dependent expression of active caspase 3, associated with increased cell death in different brain regions, including hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and substantia nigra pars compacta. Here, we investigate the yet unclear molecular and cellular events associated with the exposure of abnormally high D-Asp concentrations in cortical primary neurons and in the brain of Ddo mice. For the first time, our in vitro findings document that D-Asp induces in a time-, dose-, and NMDA receptor-dependent manner alterations in JNK and Tau phosphorylation levels, associated with pronounced cell death in primary cortical neurons. Moreover, observations obtained in Ddo animals confirmed that high in vivo levels of D-Asp altered cortical JNK signaling, Tau phosphorylation and enhanced protein SUMOylation, indicating a robust indirect role of DDO activity in regulating these biochemical NMDA receptor-related processes. Finally, no gross modifications in D-Asp concentrations and DDO mRNA expression were detected in the cortex of patients with Alzheimer's disease when compared to age-matched healthy controls.

MeSH Terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease
  • Animals
  • Cell Death
  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Cognition Disorders
  • D-Aspartate Oxidase
  • D-Aspartic Acid
  • Female
  • Humans
  • MAP Kinase Kinase 4
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neurons
  • Phosphorylation
  • Pregnancy
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Sumoylation
  • tau Proteins


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • JNK
  • Mouse models
  • NMDA receptor
  • SUMOylation
  • Tau
  • d-aspartate
  • d-aspartate oxidase
  • β-Amiloyd

Secreted d-aspartate oxidase functions in C. elegans reproduction and development.

d-Aspartate oxidase (DDO) is a degradative enzyme that acts stereospecifically on free acidic D-amino acids such as d-aspartate and d-glutamate. d-Aspartate plays an important role in regulating neurotransmission, developmental processes, hormone secretion, and reproductive functions in mammals. In contrast, the physiological role of d-glutamate in mammals remains unclear. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the enzyme responsible for in vivo metabolism of d-glutamate is DDO-3, one of the three DDO isoforms, which is also required for normal self-fertility, hatching, and lifespan. In general, eukaryotic DDOs localize to subcellular peroxisomes in a peroxisomal targeting signal type 1 (PTS1)-dependent manner. However, DDO-3 does not contain a PTS1, but instead has a putative N-terminal signal peptide (SP). In this study, we found that DDO-3 is a secreted DDO, the first such enzyme to be described in eukaryotes. In hermaphrodites, DDO-3 was secreted from the proximal gonadal sheath cells in a SP-dependent manner and transferred to the oocyte surface. In males, DDO-3 was secreted from the seminal vesicle into the seminal fluid in a SP-dependent manner during mating with hermaphrodites. In both sexes, DDO-3 was secreted from the cells where it was produced into the body fluid and taken up by scavenger coelomocytes. Full-length DDO-3 transgene rescued all phenotypes elicited by the deletion of ddo-3, whereas a DDO-3 transgene lacking the putative SP did not. Together, these results indicate that secretion of DDO-3 is essential for its physiological functions.

MeSH Terms

  • Animals
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • D-Aspartate Oxidase
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Fertility
  • Longevity
  • Mammals
  • Nose
  • Reproduction


Caenorhabditis elegans

  • d-amino acid
  • d-aspartate oxidase
  • d-glutamate
  • secretory protein