It has been proposed that D-amino acid oxidase (DAO) plays an essential role in degrading D-serine, an endogenous coagonist of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptors. DAO shows genetic association with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and schizophrenia, in whose pathophysiology aberrant metabolism of D-serine is implicated. Although the pathology of both essentially involves the forebrain, in rodents, enzymatic activity of DAO is hindbrain-shifted and absent in the region. Here, we show activity-based distribution of DAO in the central nervous system (CNS) of humans compared with that of mice. DAO activity in humans was generally higher than that in mice. In the human forebrain, DAO activity was distributed in the subcortical white matter and the posterior limb of internal capsule, while it was almost undetectable in those areas in mice. In the lower brain centers, DAO activity was detected in the gray and white matters in a coordinated fashion in both humans and mice. In humans, DAO activity was prominent along the corticospinal tract, rubrospinal tract, nigrostriatal system, ponto-/olivo-cerebellar fibers, and in the anterolateral system. In contrast, in mice, the reticulospinal tract and ponto-/olivo-cerebellar fibers were the major pathways showing strong DAO activity. In the human corticospinal tract, activity-based staining of DAO did not merge with a motoneuronal marker, but colocalized mostly with excitatory amino acid transporter 2 and in part with GFAP, suggesting that DAO activity-positive cells are astrocytes seen mainly in the motor pathway. These findings establish the distribution of DAO activity in cerebral white matter and the motor system in humans, providing evidence to support the involvement of DAO in schizophrenia and ALS. Our results raise further questions about the regulation of D-serine in DAO-rich regions as well as the physiological/pathological roles of DAO in white matter astrocytes.
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