D-Aspartic acid: an endogenous amino acid with an important neuroendocrine role

Brain Res Rev. 2007 Feb;53(2):215-34. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2006.08.005. Epub 2006 Nov 21.


D-Aspartic acid (d-Asp), an endogenous amino acid present in vertebrates and invertebrates, plays an important role in the neuroendocrine system, as well as in the development of the nervous system. During the embryonic stage of birds and the early postnatal life of mammals, a transient high concentration of d-Asp takes place in the brain and in the retina. d-Asp also acts as a neurotransmitter/neuromodulator. Indeed, this amino acid has been detected in synaptosomes and in synaptic vesicles, where it is released after chemical (K(+) ion, ionomycin) or electric stimuli. Furthermore, d-Asp increases cAMP in neuronal cells and is transported from the synaptic clefts to presynaptic nerve cells through a specific transporter. In the endocrine system, instead, d-Asp is involved in the regulation of hormone synthesis and release. For example, in the rat hypothalamus, it enhances gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) release and induces oxytocin and vasopressin mRNA synthesis. In the pituitary gland, it stimulates the secretion of the following hormones: prolactin (PRL), luteinizing hormone (LH), and growth hormone (GH) In the testes, it is present in Leydig cells and is involved in testosterone and progesterone release. Thus, a hypothalamus-pituitary-gonads pathway, in which d-Asp is involved, has been formulated. In conclusion, the present work is a summary of previous and current research done on the role of d-Asp in the nervous and endocrine systems of invertebrates and vertebrates, including mammals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • D-Aspartic Acid / chemistry
  • D-Aspartic Acid / pharmacology
  • D-Aspartic Acid / physiology*
  • Humans
  • N-Methylaspartate / physiology
  • Nervous System / metabolism
  • Neurosecretory Systems / metabolism


  • D-Aspartic Acid
  • N-Methylaspartate