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Neuroscience. 1995 Jan;64(2):277-300.

The synaptic vesicle and its targets.

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  • 1Zoologisches Institut, J. W. Goethe-Universit├Ąt, Frankfurt/M., Germany.


Synaptic vesicles play the central role in synaptic transmission. They are regarded as key organelles involved in synaptic functions such as uptake, storage and stimulus-dependent release of neurotransmitter. In the last few years our knowledge concerning the molecular components involved in the functioning of synaptic vesicles has grown impressively. Combined biochemical and molecular genetic approaches characterize many constituents of synaptic vesicles in molecular detail and contribute to an elaborate understanding of the organelle responsible for fast neuronal signalling. By studying synaptic vesicles from the electric organ of electric rays and from the mammalian cerebral cortex several proteins have been characterized as functional carriers of vesicle function, including proteins involved in the molecular cascade of exocytosis. The synaptic vesicle specific proteins, their presumptive function and targets of synaptic vesicle proteins will be discussed. This paper focuses on the small synaptic vesicles responsible for fast neuronal transmission. Comparing synaptic vesicles from the peripheral and central nervous systems strengthens the view of a high conservation in the overall composition of synaptic vesicles with a unique set of proteins attributed to this cellular compartment. Synaptic vesicle proteins belong to gene families encoding multiple isoforms present in subpopulations of neurons. The overall architecture of synaptic vesicle proteins is highly conserved during evolution and homologues of these proteins govern the constitutive secretion in yeast. Neurotoxins from different sources helped to identify target proteins of synaptic vesicles and to elucidate the molecular machinery of docking and fusion. Synaptic vesicle proteins and their markers are useful tools for the understanding of the complex life cycle of synaptic vesicles.

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