On the Differential Roles of Mg2+, Zn2+, and Cu2+ in the Equilibrium of β-N-Methyl-Amino-L-Alanine (BMAA) and its Carbamates

Pedro Diaz-parga, Joy J. Goto, V. V. Krishnan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


β-N-methyl-amino-L-alanine (BMAA) in the presence of bicarbonate (HCO3 ) undergoes structural modifications generating two carbamate species, α-carbamate and β-carbamate forms of BMAA. The chemical structure of BMAA and BMAA-carbamate adducts strongly suggest they may interact with divalent metal ions. The ability of BMAA to cross the blood-brain barrier and possibly interact with divalent metal ions may augment the neurotoxicity of these molecules. To understand the effects of divalent metal ions (Mg2+, Zn2+, and Cu2+) on the overall dynamic equilibrium between BMAA and its carbamate adducts, a systematic study using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is presented. The chemical equilibria between BMAA, its carbamate adducts, and each of the divalent ions were studied using two-dimensional chemical exchange spectroscopy (EXSY). The NMR results demonstrate that BMAA preferentially interacts with Zn2+ and Cu2+, causing an overall reduction in the production of carbamate species by altering the dynamic equilibria. The NMR-based spectral changes due to the BMAA interaction with Cu2+ is more drastic than with the Zn2+, under the same stoichiometric ratios of BMAA and the individual divalent ions. However, the presence of Mg2+ does not significantly alter the dynamic equilibria between BMAA and its carbamate adducts. The NMR-based results are further validated using circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy, observing the n ➔ π interaction in the complex formation of BMAA and the divalent metal ions, with additional verification of the interaction with Cu2+ using UV-Vis spectroscopy. Our results demonstrate that BMAA differentially interacts with divalent metal ions (Mg2+ < Zn2+ < Cu2+), and thus alters the rate of formation of carbamate products. The equilibria between BMAA, the bicarbonate ions, and the divalent metal ions may alter the total population of a specific form of BMAA-ion complex at physiological conditions and, therefore, add a level of complexity of the mechanisms by which BMAA acts as a neurotoxin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNeurotoxicity Research
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


  • BMAA
  • Carbamate formation
  • Divalent metal ions
  • Exchange spectroscopy (EXSY)
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology


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