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Prog Neurobiol. 2003 Nov;71(4):269-303.

Loading and recycling of synaptic vesicles in the Torpedo electric organ and the vertebrate neuromuscular junction.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Biophysics, SUNY at Stony Brook, 8661 SUNT, Stony Brook, NY 11794-8661, USA.


In vertebrate motor nerve terminals and in the electromotor nerve terminals of Torpedo there are two major pools of synaptic vesicles: readily releasable and reserve. The electromotor terminals differ in that the reserve vesicles are twice the diameter of the readily releasable vesicles. The vesicles contain high concentrations of ACh and ATP. Part of the ACh is brought into the vesicle by the vesicular ACh transporter, VAChT, which exchanges two protons for each ACh, but a fraction of the ACh seems to be accumulated by different, unexplored mechanisms. Most of the vesicles in the terminals do not exchange ACh or ATP with the axoplasm, although ACh and ATP are free in the vesicle interior. The VAChT is controlled by a multifaceted regulatory complex, which includes the proteoglycans that characterize the cholinergic vesicles. The drug (-)-vesamicol binds to a site on the complex and blocks ACh exchange. Only 10-20% of the vesicles are in the readily releasable pool, which therefore is turned over fairly rapidly by spontaneous quantal release. The turnover can be followed by the incorporation of false transmitters into the recycling vesicles, and by the rate of uptake of FM dyes, which have some selectivity for the two recycling pathways. The amount of ACh loaded into recycling vesicles in the readily releasable pool decreases during stimulation. The ACh content of the vesicles can be varied over eight-fold range without changing vesicle size.

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