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Muscle Nerve. 2001 May;24(5):581-601.

Molecular mechanisms of neurotransmitter release.

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Centre for Neuronal Survival, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, 3801 University Street, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2B4, Canada.


The release of neurotransmitter from neurons represents one of the pivotal events in synaptic transmission. Neurotransmitters are released from synaptic vesicles in presynaptic neurons in response to neural activity, diffuse across the synaptic cleft, and bind specific receptors in order to bring about changes in postsynaptic neurons. Some of the molecular processes that govern neurotransmitter release are now becoming better understood. The steps involved can be broken down into two partially overlapping presynaptic cycles, the neurotransmitter cycle and the synaptic vesicle cycle. The neurotransmitter cycle involves transmitter biosynthesis, storage, reuptake, and degradation. The synaptic vesicle cycle involves targeting to the nerve terminal, docking, fusion, endocytosis, and recycling. Biochemical and structural studies have yielded important insight into our understanding of each of these two cycles. Further, both pharmacological and genetic interference with either of these cycles results in profound alterations in synaptic transmission and behavior, demonstrating the crucial role of neurotransmitter release.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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