D-Aspartate as a putative cell-cell signaling molecule in the Aplysia californica central nervous system

Hai Miao, Stanislav S. Rubakhin, Cory R. Scanlan, Liping Wang, Jonathan V. Sweedler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The content, synthesis and transport of D-aspartate (D-Asp) in the CNS of Aplysia californica is investigated using capillary electrophoresis (CE) with both laser-induced fluorescence and radionuclide detection. Millimolar concentrations of D-Asp are found in various regions of the CNS. In the cerebral ganglion, three adjacent neuronal clusters have reproducibly different D-Asp levels; for example, in the F- and C-clusters, up to 85% of the free Asp is present in the D-form. Heterogeneous distribution of D-Asp is also found in the individual identified neurons tested, including the optical ganglion top-layer neurons, metacerebral cells, R2 neurons, and F-, C- and G-cluster neurons. The F-cluster neurons have the highest percentage of D-Asp (∼58% of the total Asp), whereas the lowest value of ∼8% is found in R2 neurons. In pulse-chase experiments with radiolabeled D-Asp, followed by CE with radionuclide detection, the synthesis of D-Asp from L-aspartate (L-Asp) is confirmed. Is D-Asp in the soma, or is it transported to distantly located release sites? D-Asp is clearly detected in the major nerves of A. californica, including the pleuroabdominal and cerebrobuccal connectives and the anterior tentacular nerves, suggesting it is transported long distances. In addition, both D-Asp and L-Asp are transported in the pleuroabdominal connectives in a colchicine-dependent manner, whereas several other amino acids are not. Finally, D-Asp produces electrophysiological effects similar to those induced by L-Asp. These data are consistent with an active role for D-Asp in cell-to-cell communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-606
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Aplysia californica
  • Capillary electrophoresis
  • D-Aspartate
  • Intercellular signaling
  • Neuron
  • Transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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