D-aspartate, D-serine and D-alanine are a regular occurrence in mammalian endocrine tissues, though in amounts varying with the type of gland. The pituitary gland, pineal gland, thyroid, adrenal glands and testis contain relatively large amounts of D-aspartate in all species examined. D-alanine is relatively abundant in the pituitary gland and pancreas. High levels of D-serine characterize the hypothalamus. D-leucine, D-proline and D-glutamate are generally low. The current knowledge of physiological roles of D-amino acids in endocrine tissues is far from exhaustive, yet the topic is attracting increasing interest because of its potential in pharmacological application. D-aspartate is known to act at all levels of the hypothalamus–pituitary–testis axis, playing a key role in reproductive biology in several vertebrate classes. An involvement of D-amino acids in the endocrine function of the pancreas is emerging. D-aspartate has been immunolocalized in insulin-containing secretory granules in INS-1 E clonal β cells and is co-secreted with insulin by exocytosis. Specific immunolocalization of D-alanine in pituitary ACTH-secreting cells and pancreatic β-cells suggests that this amino acid participates in blood glucose regulation in mammals. By modulating insulin secretion, D-serine probably participates in the control of systemic glucose metabolism by modulating insulin secretion. We anticipate that future investigation will significantly increase the functional repertoire of D-amino acids in homeostatic control.
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