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Serine (amino acid)

Serine is biosynthesised from a glycolytic intermediate, 3-phosphoglycerate (3-PG), in a three-step process involving the enzymes: 3-phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase, phosphoserine aminotransferase, and phosphoserine phosphatase. it can also be derived in a reversible reaction from glycine; through degradation of protein and phospholipids and through dietary intake.

Serine plays a role in cell growth and development (cellular proliferation). The conversion of L-serine to glycine by serine hydroxymethyltransferase results in the formation of the one-carbon units necessary for the synthesis of the purine bases, adenine and guanine. These bases when linked to the phosphate ester of pentose sugars are essential components of DNA and RNA and the end products of energy producing metabolic pathways, ATP and GTP. In addition, serine conversion to glycine via this same enzyme provides the one-carbon units necessary for production of the pyrimidine nucleotide, deoxythymidine monophosphate, also an essential component of DNA.

Serine is a precursor for the neurotransmitters glycine and D-serine and indirectly through cysteine, for the neurotransmitter taurine. Cysteine, which can be formed from serine through the trans-sulphuration pathway, is the precursor for proteins, glutathione, taurine, coenzyme A and inorganic sulphate.

The condensation of serine with palmitoyl-CoA is the first step in the synthesis of sphingosine. Sphingosine serves as the core of sphingolipids, which include the sphingomyelins (primarily in brain and other nervous tissue) and glycosphingolipids. Sphingolipids are abundant in the myelin sheath and are present in all membranes. Phosphatidylserine, which is derived from L-serine, is an important messenger for apoptosis. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, plays a critical role in the normal development of the nervous system.

Serine plays roles in protein, fatty acid, genetic code carriers (DNA and RNA) synthesis, and muscle build-up. Serine is a constituent in the brain and protective covers of nerves. Therefore, serine is an important amino acid for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. Furthermore, serine boosts healthy immune system by aiding the production of antibodies. Serine is also a component of all cell membranes.

Additional serine health benefits come indirectly through its effect on other biochemicals. For example, serine is a precursor for the production of amino acids such as glycine, cysteine and tryptophan. Tryptophan, necessary for the synthesis of serotonin and functioning of neurotransmitters, is known to help relieve stress, anxiety and depression.

Researchers found that the development of lymphoma and intestinal cancer slowed in mice fed a diet without serine and glycine. However, because these amino acids are naturally made by the body and are found in so many foods it would be impossible to avoid them in the diet. More studies are underway to find if there is a way to inhibit them from cancerous cells.

Deficiency of serine

Deficiency symptoms include slow or delayed cognitive and physical skills (psychomotor retardation), seizures and microcephaly. Microcephaly refers to health condition in which the head size is smaller than normal and is caused by underdevelopment of the brain. Serine deficiency is a rare, inherited, metabolic disorder of L-serine biosynthesis. Children with apparent neurological disorders are rarely, if ever, tested for a metabolic disorder and unlikely to be tested for L-serine deficiency.

It is likely that serine deficiency is grossly under-diagnosed. Children with L-serine deficiency can manifest the following symptoms and signs: cerebral palsy, epilepsy, seizures, epileptic encephalopathy , encephalopathy, cortical visual impairment (limited vision due to brain involvement rather than a primary eye disorder, cortical blindness, spastic quadriparesis (spasticity or stiffness and muscle weakness at the same time), infantile spasms, congenital microcephaly (small head size from birth), muscle weakness, hypotonia, poor head control, poor brain growth, white matter abnormalities (brain), spasticity, megaloblastic anaemia, failure to thrive, reflux.

In particular, the triad of congenital microcephaly, spastic quadriparesis (cerebral palsy) and seizures should be an important clue to test for this disorder.

Natural sources of serine in alphabetical order

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  • bbc.co.uk/news/health-39628209

  • nature.com/articles/nature11743

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