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J Neurosci. 2001 Oct 15;21(20):8034-42.

The neuronal form of adaptor protein-3 is required for synaptic vesicle formation from endosomes.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143-0448, USA.


Heterotetrameric adaptor complexes vesiculate donor membranes. One of the adaptor protein complexes, AP-3, is present in two forms; one form is expressed in all tissues of the body, whereas the other is restricted to brain. Mice lacking both the ubiquitous and neuronal forms of AP-3 exhibit neurological disorders that are not observed in mice that are mutant only in the ubiquitous form. To begin to understand the role of neuronal AP-3 in neurological disease, we investigated its function in in vitro assays as well as its localization in neural tissue. In the presence of GTPgammaS both ubiquitous and neuronal forms of AP-3 can bind to purified synaptic vesicles. However, only the neuronal form of AP-3 can produce synaptic vesicles from endosomes in vitro. We also identified that the expression of neuronal AP-3 is limited to varicosities of neuronal-like processes and is expressed in most axons of the brain. Although the AP-2/clathrin pathway is the major route of vesicle production and the relatively minor neuronal AP-3 pathway is not necessary for viability, the absence of the latter could lead to the neurological abnormalities seen in mice lacking the expression of AP-3 in brain. In this study we have identified the first brain-specific function for a neuronal adaptor complex.

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