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Trends Neurosci. 2006 Apr;29(4):200-6. Epub 2006 Mar 3.

Imaging synaptic zinc: promises and perils.

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  • Department of Biological Sciences, 336 BB, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA. alan-kay@uiowa.edu


It is well established that some excitatory nerve terminals have high concentrations of Zn(2+) in their synaptic vesicles. For some time, it has been believed that synaptic Zn(2+) is released during neurotransmission and acts as a neuromodulator. Fluorescent Zn(2+) indicators that do not penetrate membranes offer the prospect of rendering the release of Zn(2+) visible. Here, I take a critical look at fluorimetric imaging experiments devised to determine whether Zn(2+) is released and show that they are particularly susceptible to artifacts. Moreover, I will argue that recent experiments suggest that, rather than being released, Zn(2+) is presented to the extracellular space firmly coordinated to presynaptic macromolecules.

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