To gain insight into the contribution of d-serine to impaired cognitive aging, we compared the metabolic pathway and content of the amino acid as well as d-serine-dependent synaptic transmission and plasticity in the hippocampus of young and old rats of the Wistar and Lou/C/Jall strains. Wistar rats display cognitive impairments with aging that are not found in the latter strain, which is therefore considered a model of healthy aging. Both mRNA and protein levels of serine racemase, the d-serine synthesizing enzyme, were decreased in the hippocampus but not in the cerebral cortex or cerebellum of aged Wistar rats, whereas the expression of d-amino acid oxidase, which degrades the amino acid, was not affected. Consequently, hippocampal levels of endogenous d-serine were significantly lower. In contrast, serine racemase expression and d-serine levels were not altered in the hippocampus of aged Lou/C/Jall rats. Ex vivo electrophysiological recordings in hippocampal slices showed a marked reduction in N-methyl-d-aspartate-receptor (NMDA-R)-mediated synaptic potentials and theta-burst-induced long-term potentiation (LTP) in the CA1 area of aged Wistar rats, which were restored by exogenous d-serine. In contrast, NMDA-R activation, LTP induction and responses to d-serine were not altered in aged Lou/C/Jall rats. These results further strengthen the notion that the serine racemase-dependent pathway is a prime target of hippocampus-dependent cognitive deficits with aging. Understanding the processes that specifically affect serine racemase during aging could thus provide key insights into the treatment of memory deficits in the elderly.
Copyright © 2009. Published by Elsevier Inc.