Astrocytes express the 3-phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (Phgdh) enzyme required for the synthesis of l-serine from glucose. Astrocytic l-serine was proposed to regulate NMDAR activity by shuttling to neurons to sustain d-serine production, but this hypothesis remains untested. We now report that inhibition of astrocytic Phgdh suppressed the de novo synthesis of l-and d-serine and reduced the NMDAR synaptic potentials and long-term potentiation (LTP) at the Schaffer collaterals-CA1 synapse. Likewise, enzymatic removal of extracellular l-serine impaired LTP, supporting an l-serine shuttle mechanism between glia and neurons in generating the NMDAR coagonist d-serine. Moreover, deletion of serine racemase (SR) in glutamatergic neurons abrogated d-serine synthesis to the same extent as Phgdh inhibition, suggesting that neurons are the predominant source of the newly synthesized d-serine. We also found that the synaptic NMDAR activation in adult SR-knockout (KO) mice requires Phgdh-derived glycine, despite the sharp decline in the postnatal glycine levels as a result of the emergence of the glycine cleavage system. Unexpectedly, we also discovered that glycine regulates d-serine metabolism by a dual mechanism. The first consists of tonic inhibition of SR by intracellular glycine observed in vitro, primary cultures, and in vivo microdialysis. The second involves a transient glycine-induce d-serine release through the Asc-1 transporter, an effect abolished in Asc-1 KO mice and diminished by deleting SR in glutamatergic neurons. Our observations suggest that glycine is a multifaceted regulator of d-serine metabolism and implicate both d-serine and glycine in mediating NMDAR synaptic activation at the mature hippocampus through a Phgdh-dependent shuttle mechanism.
Keywords: Phgdh; d-serine; gliotransmission; glycine; tripartite synapse.