Proteins are the most abundant biological cellular macromolcules and structurally characterized by being formed from a group of 20 precursor molecules, known as amino acids. The grouping and combination of these amino acids enable peptides, oligopeptides and polypetides to be formed, to construct larger structures, which are strictly speaking proteins.

Although up until now it was accepted that the majority of amino acids were in the form of L-stereoisomers, it has recently been demonstrated that D-aminoacids are also present in animals and human beings in high concentrations, and they perform specific biological functions. Two D-amino acids, namely D-serine and D-aspartate, are found in considerable concentrations in the central nervous system. D-serine has shown that it is relevant to the physiological activation of the NMDA (NMDAR) receptor, and all disorders associated with a modified function of the NMDAR, such as schizophrenia, ischemia, epilepsy and neurodegenerative disorders. On the other hand, apart from its role in the central nervous system, D-aspartate appears to have a role in the development and the endocrine function and development. However, the precise function of these and other D-amino acids in animals and humans requires much more research.

At the same time as D-amino acids play biological roles, the alterations in concentrations of D-amino acids and enzymes which modulate them, may cause some disorders and be related with the pathogenesis of these disorders. They can, therefore, help in the diagnosis process and provide new therapeutic targets. Consequently, the presence and the role of D-amino acids not only challenges earlier theories on the physiology of mammals, but it also contributes to new and interesting perspectives in human diseases.

Particularly Japanese (D-amino acids are especially present in the Japanese diet) and European scientists are working on this highly innovative line of research. The Esteve Foundation gathered nine experts from the old continent at the eighth Esteve Foundation Discussion Group, which was held in S’Agaró on 8 and 9 October 2014, in order to share their latest findings on D-Aminoacids and prepare the ground for a joint scientific publication.

The nine researchers present were:

Tom J de Koning (coordinator)
Department of Genetics
University Medical Center Groningen
Groningen, Holanda

Jean-Pierre Mothet (coordinator)
Team ‘Gliotransmission & Synaptopathies’
Aix-Marseille University
Marsella, Francia

Francine Acher
Laboratoire de Chimie et Biochimie
Université Paris Descartes
París, Francia

Jacqueline de Belleroche
Neurogenetics Group, Division of Brain Sciences
Imperial College London
Londres, Reino Unido

Jan Konvalinka
Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry
Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Praga, República Checa

Manuel Palacin
Institut de Recerca Biomèdica
Fundació Institut de Recerca Biomèdica
Barcelona, España

Loredano Pollegioni
Dept. of Biotechnology and Life Sciences
Università degli Studi dell’Insubria
Varese, Italia

Alessandro Usiello
Biotecnologie Avanzate
Nápoles, Italia

Herman Wolosker
The Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine
Haifa, Israel