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Neuroscientist. 2002 Dec;8(6):524-31.

The role of neurotrophins in neurotransmitter release.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Civitan International Research Center. University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35294-0021, USA.


The neurotrophins (NTs) have recently been shown to elicit pronounced effects on quantal neurotransmitter release at both central and peripheral nervous system synapses. Due to their activity-dependent release, as well as the subcellular localization of both protein and receptor, NTs are ideally suited to modify the strength of neuronal connections by "fine-tuning" synaptic activity through direct actions at presynaptic terminals. Here, using BDNF as a prototypical example, the authors provide an update of recent evidence demonstrating that NTs enhance quantal neurotransmitter release at synapses through presynaptic mechanisms. The authors further propose that a potential target for NT actions at presynaptic terminals is the mechanism by which terminals retrieve synaptic vesicles after exocytosis. Depending on the temporal demands placed on synapses during high-frequency synaptic transmission, synapses may use two alternative modes of synaptic vesicle retrieval, the conventional slow endosomal recycling or a faster rapid retrieval at the active zone, referred to as "kiss-and-run." By modulating Ca2+ microdomains associated with voltage-gated Ca2+ channels at active zones, NTs may elicit a switch from the slow to the fast mode of endocytosis of vesicles at presynaptic terminals during high-frequency synaptic transmission, allowing more reliable information transfer and neuronal signaling in the central nervous system.

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