Amino Acids

, Volume 49, Issue 9, pp 1521–1533 | Cite as

An overview on d-amino acids

  • Giuseppe Genchi
Review Article


More than half a century ago researchers thought that d-amino acids had a minor function compared to l-enantiomers in biological processes. Many evidences have shown that d-amino acids are present in high concentration in microorganisms, plants, mammals and humans and fulfil specific biological functions. In the brain of mammals, d-serine (d-Ser) acts as a co-agonist of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA)-type glutamate receptors, responsible for learning, memory and behaviour. d-Ser metabolism is relevant for disorders associated with an altered function of the NMDA receptor, such as schizophrenia, ischemia, epilepsy and neurodegenerative disorders. On the other hand, d-aspartate (d-Asp) is one of the major regulators of adult neurogenesis and plays an important role in the development of endocrine function. d-Asp is present in the neuroendocrine and endocrine tissues and testes, and regulates the synthesis and secretion of hormones and spermatogenesis. Also food proteins contain d-amino acids that are naturally originated or processing-induced under conditions such as high temperatures, acid and alkali treatments and fermentation processes. The presence of d-amino acids in dairy products denotes thermal and alkaline treatments and microbial contamination. Two enzymes are involved in the metabolism of d-amino acids: amino acid racemase in the synthesis and d-amino acid oxidase in the degradation.


d-amino acid Amino acid racemase d-amino acid oxidase d-Asp d-Ser 



The author gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided by Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca, Italia (MIUR). The author also thanks Dr. Adelaide Romito for English revision.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author reports that there are no conflicts of interest.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Farmacia e Scienze della Salute e della NutrizioneUniversità della Calabria (UNICAL)Arcavacata di Rende, CosenzaItaly

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