Historically, amino acids were studied in the context of their importance in protein synthesis. In the 1950s, the focus of research shifted as amino acids were recognized as putative neurotransmitters. Today, many amino acids are considered important neurochemicals. Although many amino acids play a role in neurotransmission, glutamate (Glu), glycine (Gly), and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are among the more prevalent and better understood. Glu, the major excitatory neurotransmitter, and Gly and GABA, the major inhibitory neurotransmitters, in the central nervous system, are known to be tightly regulated. Prolonged exposure to environmental toxicants, such as manganese (Mn), mercury (Hg), or lead (Pb), however, can lead to dysregulation of these neurochemicals and subsequent neurotoxicity. While the ability of these metals to disrupt the regulation of Glu, Gly and GABA have been studied, few articles have examined the collective role of these amino acids in the respective metal's mechanism of toxicity. For each of the neurotransmitters above, we will provide a brief synopsis of their regulatory function, including the importance of transport and re-uptake in maintaining their optimal function. Additionally, the review will address the hypothesis that aberrant homeostasis of any of these amino acids, or a combination of the three, plays a role in the neurotoxicity of Mn, Hg, or Pb.
- γ-aminobutyric acid
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