Serine racemase catalyzes both the synthesis and the degradation of d-serine, an obligatory co-agonist of the glutamatergic NMDA receptors. It is allosterically controlled by adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which increases its activity around 7-fold through a co-operative binding mechanism. Serine racemase has been proposed as a drug target for the treatment of several neuropathologies but, so far, the search has been directed only toward the active site, with the identification of a few, low-affinity inhibitors. Following the recent observation that nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (reduced form) (NADH) inhibits serine racemase, here we show that the inhibition is partial, with an IC50 of 246 ± 63 μM, several-fold higher than NADH intracellular concentrations. At saturating concentrations of NADH, ATP binds with a 2-fold lower affinity and without co-operativity, suggesting ligand competition. NADH also reduces the weak activity of human serine racemase in the absence of ATP, indicating an additional ATP-independent inhibition mechanism. By dissecting the NADH molecule, we discovered that the inhibitory determinant is the N-substituted 1,4-dihydronicotinamide ring. Particularly, the NADH precursor 1,4-dihydronicotinamide mononucleotide exhibited a partial mixed-type inhibition, with a KI of 18 ± 7 μM. Docking simulations suggested that all 1,4-dihydronicotinamide derivatives bind at the interdimeric interface, with the ring positioned in an unoccupied site next to the ATP-binding site. This newly recognized allosteric site might be exploited for the design of high-affinity serine racemase effectors to finely modulate d-serine homeostasis.

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