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REVIEW: Neurotoxic Non-proteinogenic Amino Acid β-N-Methylamino-L-alanine and Its Role in Biological Systems

A. A. Popova1 and O. A. Koksharova1,2*

1Institute of Molecular Genetics, Russian Academy of Sciences, 123182 Moscow, Russia; fax: +7 (499) 196-0221; E-mail: alexandra.a.popova@gmail.com

2Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology, Lomonosov Moscow State University, 119991 Moscow, Russia; fax: +7 (495) 939-0338; E-mail: koksharova@genebee.msu.ru, oa-koksharova@rambler.ru

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received March 11, 2016; Revision received April 15, 2016
Secondary metabolites of photoautotrophic organisms have attracted considerable interest in recent years. In particular, molecules of non-proteinogenic amino acids participating in various physiological processes and capable of producing adverse ecological effects have been actively investigated. For example, the non-proteinogenic amino acid β-N-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) is neurotoxic to animals including humans. It is known that BMAA accumulation via the food chain can lead to development of neurodegenerative diseases in humans such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases as well as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Moreover, BMAA can be mistakenly incorporated into a protein molecule instead of serine. Natural sources of BMAA and methods for its detection are discussed in this review, as well as the role of BMAA in metabolism of its producers and possible mechanisms of toxicity of this amino acid in different living organisms.
KEY WORDS: BMAA (β-N-methylamino-L-alanine), cyanobacteria, cyanotoxins, neurotoxins, apoptosis, oxidative stress, neurodegenerative diseases

DOI: 10.1134/S0006297916080022