D-Serine and glycine are coagonists of NMDA receptors (NMDARs), but their relative contributions for several NMDAR-dependent processes are unclear. We now report that the alanine-serine-cysteine transporter-1 (Asc-1) mediates release of both D-serine and glycine from neurons, and, in turn, this modulates NMDAR synaptic activity. Asc-1 antiporter activity is enhanced by D-isoleucine (D-Ile), which releases D-serine and glycine from Asc-1-transfected cells, primary neuronal cultures, and hippocampal slices. D-Ile has no effect on astrocytes, which do not express Asc-1. We show that D-Ile enhances the long-term potentiation (LTP) in rat and mouse hippocampal CA1 by stimulating Asc-1-mediated endogenous D-serine release. D-Ile effects on synaptic plasticity are abolished by enzymatically depleting D-serine or by using serine racemase knock-out (SR-KO) mice, confirming its specificity and supporting the notion that LTP depends mostly on D-serine release. Conversely, our data also disclose a role of glycine in activating synaptic NMDARs. Although acute enzymatic depletion of D-serine also drastically decreases the isolated NMDAR synaptic potentials, these responses are still enhanced by D-Ile. Furthermore, NMDAR synaptic potentials are preserved in SR-KO mice and are also enhanced by D-Ile, indicating that glycine overlaps with D-serine binding at synaptic NMDARs. Altogether, our results disclose a novel role of Asc-1 in regulating NMDAR-dependent synaptic activity by mediating concurrent non-vesicular release of D-serine and glycine. Our data also highlight an important role of neuron-derived D-serine and glycine, indicating that astrocytic D-serine is not solely responsible for activating synaptic NMDARs.
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