N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) play pivotal roles in synaptic development, plasticity, neural survival, and cognition. Despite recent reports describing the genetic association between de novo mutations of NMDAR subunits and severe psychiatric diseases, little is known about their pathogenic mechanisms and potential therapeutic interventions. Here we report a case study of a 4-year-old Rett-like patient with severe encephalopathy carrying a missense de novo mutation in GRIN2B(p.P553T) coding for the GluN2B subunit of NMDAR.


We generated a dynamic molecular model of mutant GluN2B-containing NMDARs. We expressed the mutation in cell lines and primary cultures, and we evaluated the putative morphological, electrophysiological, and synaptic plasticity alterations. Finally, we evaluated D-serine administration as a therapeutic strategy and translated it to the clinical practice.


Structural molecular modeling predicted a reduced pore size of mutant NMDARs. Electrophysiological recordings confirmed this prediction and also showed gating alterations, a reduced glutamate affinity associated with a strong decrease of NMDA-evoked currents. Moreover, GluN2B(P553T)-expressing neurons showed decreased spine density, concomitant with reduced NMDA-evoked currents and impaired NMDAR-dependent insertion of GluA1 at stimulated synapses. Notably, the naturally occurring co-agonist D-serine was able to attenuate hypofunction of GluN2B(p.P553T)-containing NMDARs. Hence, D-serine dietary supplementation was initiated. Importantly, the patient has shown remarkable motor, cognitive, and communication improvements after 17 months of D-serine dietary supplementation.


Our data suggest that hypofunctional NMDARs containing GluN2B(p.P553T) can contribute to Rett-like encephalopathy and that their potentiation by D-serine treatment may underlie the associated clinical improvement.




Soto D. et al. Rett-like severe encephalopathy caused by a de novo GRIN2B mutation is attenuated by D-serine dietary supplement. Biol Psychiatry. 2017 Jun 16. pii: S0006-3223(17)31671-2.




The elaboration of this post has been financed by the project PI15/01082, as a part of the National Plan of I+D+I and co-financed by the ISCIII – General Deputy Direction for Evaluation and Development of Health Research – and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).