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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2001 Jan;58(1):94-116.

The presynaptic cytomatrix of brain synapses.

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Department of Neurochemistry and Molecular Biology, Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Magdeburg, Germany.


Synapses are principal sites for communication between neurons via chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are released from presynaptic nerve terminals at the active zone, a restricted area of the cell membrane situated exactly opposite to the postsynaptic neurotransmitter reception apparatus. At the active zone neurotransmitter-containing synaptic vesicles (SVs) dock, fuse, release their content and are recycled in a strictly regulated manner. The cytoskeletal matrix at the active zone (CAZ) is thought to play an essential role in the organization of this SV cycle. Several multi-domain cytoskeleton-associated proteins, including RIM, Bassoon, Piccolo/Aczonin and Munc-13, have been identified, which are specifically localized at the active zone and thus are putative molecular components of the CAZ. This review will summarize our present knowledge about the structure and function of these CAZ-specific proteins. Moreover, we will review our present view of how the exocytotic and endocytic machineries at the site of neurotransmitter release are linked to and organized by the presynaptic cytoskeleton. Finally, we will summarize recent progress that has been made in understanding how active zones are assembled during nervous system development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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