New brain synapses form when a postsynaptic structure, the dendritic spine, interacts with a presynaptic terminal. Brain synapses and dendritic spines, membrane-rich structures, are depleted in Alzheimer's disease, as are some circulating compounds needed for synthesizing phosphatides, the major constituents of synaptic membranes. Animals given three of these compounds, all nutrients—uridine, the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid, and choline—develop increased levels of brain phosphatides and of proteins that are concentrated within synaptic membranes (e.g., PSD-95, synapsin-1), improved cognition, and enhanced neurotransmitter release. The nutrients work by increasing the substrate-saturation of low-affinity enzymes that synthesize the phosphatides. Moreover, uridine and its nucleotide metabolites activate brain P2Y receptors, which control neuronal differentiation and synaptic protein synthesis. A preparation containing these compounds is being tested for treating Alzheimer's disease.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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