• d-serine;
  • Hydra vulgaris;
  • invertebrate neurotransmitters;
  • strychnine


Glycine acts as an inhibitory transmitter in the lower brain stem and spinal cord of vertebrate species, while very few data are yet available to support a similar role in invertebrate nervous systems. Here we report the identification and characterization of glycine receptors in the freshwater polyp Hydra vulgaris (Cnidaria, Hydrozoa) by biochemical and behavioural studies. Saturation experiments revealed the occurrence of one population of binding sites of nanomolar affinity (KD = 33 nm) and low capacity (Bmax= 79 fmol/mg protein) for [3H]strychnine. The addition of glycine or taurine (0.1 µm–1 mm) produced a dose-dependent inhibition of [3H]strychnine binding. β-alanine (0.1–1 mm) did not significantly affect [3H]strychnine binding. The pharmacological properties of these receptors compare with those of vertebrate glycine receptors. Stimulation of Hydra polyps by reduced glutathione resulted in a significant increase in the duration of mouth opening in the presence of glycine, taurine or β-alanine. The enhancement of the response was related both to amino acid (10–100 µm) and to glutathione concentration (1–10 µm). The effects of glycine or its agonists were suppressed by strychnine (1–10 µm). d-serine, a glycine agonist at the vertebrate NMDA receptor, produced opposite effects to those of glycine. The effects of d-serine were suppressed by 5,7-dichlorokynurenic acid but not by strychnine. In vitro, [3H]strychnine binding was not displaced by d-serine. These results indicate a dual action of glycine in Hydra tissues. The hypothesis that NMDA receptors may also be present in this elementary nervous system is proposed.