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Neuron. 2002 Nov 14;36(4):649-59.

Depolarization redistributes synaptic membrane and creates a gradient of vesicles on the synaptic body at a ribbon synapse.

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Institute of Neuroscience, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA.


We used electron tomography of frog saccular hair cells to reconstruct presynaptic ultrastructure at synapses specialized for sustained transmitter release. Synaptic vesicles at inhibited synapses were abundant in the cytoplasm and covered the synaptic body at high density. Continuous maximal stimulation depleted 73% of the vesicles within 800 nm of the synapse, with a concomitant increase in surface area of intracellular cisterns and plasmalemmal infoldings. Docked vesicles were depleted 60%-80% regardless of their distance from the active zone. Vesicles on the synaptic body were depleted primarily in the hemisphere facing the plasmalemma, creating a gradient of vesicles on its surface. We conclude that formation of new synaptic vesicles from cisterns is rate limiting in the vesicle cycle.

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