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Alessandra Santillo, Massimo Venditti, Sergio Minucci, Gabriella Chieffi Baccari, Sara Falvo, Luigi Rosati and Maria Maddalena Di Fiore

D-Aspartate (D-Asp) is an endogenous amino acid that plays a central role in the development of the central nervous system (CNS) and functioning of the neuroendocrine system. In line with its functions, it is abundantly present in the CNS and reproductive systems of vertebrates and invertebrates. It has been implicated in the biosynthesis and/or secretion of hormones and factors that are involved in various reproductive functions, such as GnRH from the hypothalamus and testosterone from the testis. We conducted an in vivo study consisting of acute (i.p. injection of 2 µmol/g body weight) and chronic (15 days drinking solution) administration of D-Asp to adult rats to understand the signaling pathways elicited by D-Asp in the rat testis. We found that D-Asp upregulated the expression of prolyl endopeptidase (PREP), a serine protease having a pivotal role in the regulation of mammalian spermatogenesis and spermiogenesis. Immunofluorescence analysis revealed its overexpression in Leydig cells, Sertoli cells and spermatogonia. Moreover, PREP was found to co-localize with GluA2/3, an AMPA receptor subunit, whose protein expression also increased after D-Asp treatments. Finally, we found a significant increase in ERK and Akt activities in the testis of rats treated with D-Asp. Since PREP is known to be involved in regulating GnRH levels and in germ cell differentiation, we hypothesize D-Asp to play a pivotal role in regulating hormone homeostasis and spermatogenesis through activation of PREP, AMPAR, ERK and Akt.