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.
Keywords: Amino acid racemase; D-Asp; D-Ser; D-amino acid; D-amino acid oxidase.