D-amino acids as novel blood-based biomarkers

Curr Med Chem. 2021 Nov 24. doi: 10.2174/0929867328666211125092438. Online ahead of print.


Background: D-amino acids are present in the human body originating from diet, bacterial flora, and endogenous synthesis (at least for D-serine and, probably, D-aspartate). D-amino acids are involved in important physiological processes (e.g., D-serine and D-aspartate act on the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor as co-agonist and agonist, respectively) and increasing evidence links D-amino acids to different pathological states.

Methods: Determination of D-amino acids levels in blood is mainly based on enantiomeric separations by high performance liquid chromatography. Because of the low amount of D-enantiomers compared to the corresponding L-amino acids and the high background noise associated with biological matrices, positive and negative controls are absolutely required to obtain reliable values.

Results: Altered levels of D-serine in blood have been reported in several neurological and psychiatric disorders: it has been proposed as promising biomarker in schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Indeed, D-serine levels seem an appropriate predictor of anti-depressant response in major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as a prognostic biomarker of early cognitive decline, especially when considering D-serine and D-proline levels simultaneously. Furthermore, D-amino acids seem useful biomarkers for pathologies not related to the central nervous system such as pancreatic cancer and chronic kidney diseases.

Conclusion: This is the first review focusing on the determination of blood levels of D-amino acids as diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. The experimental evidence of an involvement of D-amino acids in various physiological pathways suggest investigating their levels in additional pathologies too, such as diabetes mellitus. In conclusion, the levels of D-amino acids in blood may represent novel diagnostic peripheral biomarkers for various disorders. Further studies are required to standardize/automatize the determinations and for confirming their clinical effectiveness.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; D-aspartate; D-serine; chronic kidney diseases; early diagnosis; pancreatic cancer; schizophrenia.